Court rules about typography

“Use a different font? But doesn’t every court require 12-point Times New Roman?” No—in fact, none do. Below is a summary of the font rules in major court systems.

I’m obligated to point out that this is not legal advice. Corrections and additions are welcome (I’m starting with the most populous states and working downward, so you’ll have to be patient, Wyoming attorneys.)

Thank you to the attorneys who have written to me with rules from their jurisdictions. Keep sending them—I’ll keep posting them.

An excellent article by Ruth Anne Robbins, Painting With Print, has font rules for many jurisdictions not yet listed.

Alabama

Appellate: To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can use any font or size as long as it’s Courier New, 13 point. Alabama R. App. P. 32(a)(7).

Alaska

Civil: 12 point Courier or a font allowed by appellate rule 513.5(c) (see below). Alaska Civ. R. 76(a)(3).

Appellate: 12 point Courier (or “substantially similar monospaced” font); 13 point “Times New Roman, Garamond, CG Times, New Century Schoolbook, os substantially simliar serifed, roman text style,” or 12.5 point “Arial, Helvetica, Univers, or substantially similar non-serifed text style.” And if you use something other than 12 point Courier, you must “file a certificate that identifies the typeface and point size.” Admirably thorough and thoughtful, Alaska. I salute you. Alaska App. R. 513.5(c).

California

Superior: “Typeface must be essentially equivalent to Courier, Times New Roman, or Arial.” Cal. R. Ct. 2.105. Type must be “not smaller than 12 points”. Cal. R. Ct. 2.104.

Appellate: “Any conventional typeface may be used” and “must not be smaller than 13 point”. Cal. R. Ct. 8.204(b)(2) and (b)(4).

Federal, Central District: Requires either a “proportionally spaced or a monospaced face”. Proportional fonts must be 14 point or larger. Individual judges may set other requirements. C.D. Cal. Local R. 11–3.1.1.

Federal, Eastern District: Requires only that documents be “clearly legible”. E.D. Cal. Local R. 7–130(b).

Federal, Northern District: “Type may not be smaller than 12-point standard font (e.g. Times New Roman)”. N.D. Cal. Local R. 3–4(c)(2).

Federal, Southern District: “[T]ype shall not be smaller than 12-point standard font (e.g. Times New Roman)”. S.D. Cal. Local R. 5.1(a).

Connecticut

Appellate: Must use either Arial or Univers, 12-point or larger. Ct. Prac. Book §§ 66–3 and 67–2.

Delaware

Delaware District Court: “All printed matter must appear in at least 12 point type” D. Del. L.R. 5.1.1(a).

Supreme Court, Court of Chancery: “All printed matter must appear in at least 11 point type” Del. R. Civ. P. 13(a)(i); Del. Ct. Ch. R. 171(d)(2). Footnotes shall be “of the same type size as the text of the brief.” Del. R. Civ. P. 13(d).

Superior Court, Family Court, Court of Common Pleas, and Justice of the Peace courts do not specify the typeface or type size for court filings. See Del. Super. Ct. R. Civ. P. 7(d); Del. Fam. Ct. R. Civ. P. 7; Del. J.P. Ct. R. Civ. P. 10.

Federal: “Printed matter must appear in at least 11 point type.” Del. L. R. 7.1.3(a).

Florida

Civil: The rules of civil procedure are silent on the matter. Fl. R. Civ. P. 1.100 and 1.110.

Appellate: You can choose Times New Roman 14-point or Courier New 12-point. Fl. R. App. P. 9.210(a)(2). Certainly not an “appealing” choice.

Federal, Middle District: Papers “shall be typewritten … in at least twelve-point”. M.D. Fl. Local R. 1.05(a). However, “typewritten” does not imply a monospaced font—court filings in the Middle District use proportional fonts, both serif and sans serif.

Federal, Northern District: Must be “typewritten, no smaller than 12 point font”. N.D. Fl. Local R. 5.1(B)(3). I will assume “typewritten” is construed broadly, as it is in the Middle District.

Federal, Southern District: Must be “plainly typed or written”. S.D. Fl. Local R. 5.1.A.4.

Illinois

Circuit: Papers must be “legibly written, typewritten, [or] printed”. Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 131(a).

Appellate & Supreme: “Typeface must be 12-point or larger”. Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 341(a).

Federal, Central District: Allows proportional or monospaced fonts. Proportional fonts must be “12-point or larger”. C.D. Ill. Local R. 5.1(c).

Federal, Northern District: Requires only 12-point type. N.D. Ill. Local R. 5.2(b)(1).

Federal, Southern District: Papers shall be “plainly typewritten” or “printed”. S.D. Ill. Local. R. 5.1(b).

Iowa

Appellate: Use a proportional, serifed font no smaller than 14 point or a monospaced font no smaller than 12 point. Sans serif fonts are OK for headings. Iowa R. App. P. 6.903(1)(e).

Maine

Civil: Any font that’s 12 point or larger. Footnotes & quotations can be 11 point. Maine R. Civ. P. 7(f).

Appellate: Here’s an interesting rule: any font that’s at least 12 point, but it can’t be smaller than 12 point Bookman. (Not sure I’d use Bookman as a standard for anything, but I see their point.) Maine R. App. P. 9(f).

New Jersey

All courts: A font no smaller than 12 point that produces no more than 65 characters per line. While the rule isn’t explicitly restricted monospaced fonts, NJ practitioners have told me that this is how it’s interpreted. (FB Alix might be an option.) N.J. Ct. R. 2:6–10.

New York

Supreme (trial courts): Text must be no less than 10 point, except for a summons, which must be at least 12 point. N.Y.C.P.L.R. 2101, Uniform R. 202.5 and 200.3.

Supreme Court, Appellate Division: No general rule; allows local rules. N.Y.C.P.L.R. 5529.

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Dept. No local rule. 22 N.Y.C.R.R. § 600.2.

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Dept.: Requires “a serifed, proportionally spaced typeface such as Times Roman, or a serifed, monospaced typeface such as Courier. Narrow or condensed typefaces and/or condensed font spacing may not be used” and must be set at 14 point. Furthermore, “Except in headings, words may not be in bold type or type consisting of all capital letters.” 22 N.Y.C.R.R. § 670.10.3.

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Dept. No local rule. 22 N.Y.C.R.R. § 800.8.

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Dept. Requires “standard typographical printing” at no less than 11 point. 22 N.Y.C.R.R. § 1000.4(f)(2).

Court of Appeals: Requires “a serifed, proportionally spaced typeface such as Times Roman, or a serifed, monospaced typeface such as Courier. Narrow or condensed typefaces and/or condensed font spacing may not be used” and must be set at 14 point. Furthermore, “Except in headings, words may not be in bold type or type consisting of all capital letters.” 22 N.Y.C.R.R. § 500.1(e).

Federal, Eastern District: Text must be 12 point or larger. Footnotes can be 10 point. E.D.N.Y. Local R. 11.1(b).

Federal, Northern District: Must be “plainly and legibly written” at a “minimum of 12-point type”. N.D.N.Y. Local R. 10.1(b) and (a).

Federal, Southern District: Shares the same local rules as Eastern District.

Federal, Western District: Must be “plainly and legibly written” in “at least 12-point type”. W.D.N.Y. Local Civ. R. 10(a); W.D.N.Y. Local Crim. R. 49.2(a).

Texas

District: No statewide rule. Tex. R. Civ. P. 45(d). It’s possible there are local rules, but Texas has hundreds of court districts. If you’re a Texas practitioner who knows the answer, please email me.

Appellate and Supreme: Must use a 10 character per inch monospaced typeface like Courier, or a “13-point or larger proportionally spaced typeface”. Tex. R. App. P. 9.4(e).

Federal, Eastern District: Text must be “plainly … printed” no smaller than 12 point. E.D. Tex. Local Civ. R. 10.

Federal, Northern District: No special requirements. N.D. Tex. Local R. 10–1.

Federal, Southern District: No special requirements. S.D. Tex. Local R. 10.2.

Federal, Western District: No special requirements in the local rules (though the electronic-filing rules require 12-point type). W.D. Tex. Local. R. 10.

Utah

Civil: requires only that text be “clearly legible” and no smaller than 12 point. Utah R. Civ. P. 10(d).

Appellate: any “plain, roman style may be used.” Proportional fonts must be at least 13 point; monospaced fonts must be at least 12 point. Utah R. App. P. 27(b).

Federal

U.S. Tax Court: monospaced font at least 12 point. (Practitioners should investigate my tax-court friendly monospaced font, FB Alix.) U.S. Tax Court R. of Prac. & P. 23(d).

Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (applies to all circuits): Must use serif type for text, but sans serif type acceptable for headings and captions. Must be 14-point or larger. Monospaced fonts cannot contain more than 10.5 characters per inch. Fed. R. App. P. 32(a)(5)(A),(B).

Second Circuit: No local rule.

Fifth Circuit: No local rule.

Seventh Circuit: Allows font sizes down to 12-point. Seventh Cir. R. 32. The Seventh Circuit has also published its own essay about typography that echoes many of the points on this website.

Ninth Circuit: No local rule.

Eleventh Circuit: No local rule.

United States Supreme Court: Must use “Century family (e.g., Century Expanded, New Century Schoolbook, or Century Schoolbook) 12-point type with 2-point or more leading between lines”. Sup. Ct. R. 33.1(b).