Don’t Like Your Opponent’s Brief? Just Rewrite It.

Judge Mark Painter, Ohio First District Court of Appeals, took some lawyers to task for moving to strike their opponent’s appellate brief for exceeding the page limitations set by rule, apparently even redrafting portions of the brief in the process:

Not wishing to let stand a brief they consider too long, counsel for appellant … have moved this court to strike [appellees’ brief] … contending the brief (1) put the citations in footnotes (where they belong!); and (2) uses footnotes to “get around” the page limit. And counsel even goes so far as to redraft their opponent’s brief, inserting the jumble of letters and numbers into the paragraphs—even the references to the record. Thus bollixed up and unreadable, the brief comes out to 38.5 pages, instead of the regulation 35. Egad. …

Our dreary day has been enlivened by the thought that lawyers care about one another’s prose so much as to redraft it. And that this dispute is so close that it may turn on a few extra pages of a lawyer’s argument. We can’t wait to read the final version—or maybe we should wait for the movie.

 As to citations, they belong in footnotes. Putting goofy letters and numbers in the middle of paragraphs destroys readability. We had to do that with typewriters, just as we had to use underlining because typewriters did not have italics. No more.

Judge Painter did agree with the objectors that the other side shouldn’t have used so many speaking footnotes. He “venture[d] a guess that this court’s eventual opinion resolving this dispute will be fewer than 20 pages,” and suggested to both sides that “less is usually more” when it comes to legal drafting.

M&M Metals Int’l, Inc. v. Continental Casualty Co., 870 N.E.2d 167, 167 (Ohio Ct. App. 2006).

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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