how to interpret court rules

Among legal doc­u­ments, court fil­ings must con­form to the nar­row­est typo­graphic restric­tions—court rules. But except for a few juris­dic­tions, court rules still give law­yers a fair amount of typo­graphic lat­i­tude.

So why do 99.99% of the court fil­ings in any juris­dic­tion look alike?

why do court rules about typography exist?

Con­sis­tency of typog­ra­phy in court fil­ings helps ensure fair­ness to the par­ties. For instance, in juris­dic­tions that use page lim­its, if law­yer A sets his briefs at 12 point and law­yer B sets hers at 10 point, then law­yer B will get more words per page. Court rules about typog­ra­phy pre­vent abuse of these lim­its.

Court rules about typog­ra­phy also exist as a con­ve­nience to the judge and the court staff. Judges don’t want to read sheaves of 9-point text. Rules that set min­i­mum page mar­gins or point size ensure a min­i­mum stan­dard of leg­i­bil­ity.

Keep in mind that court rules about typog­ra­phy are not designed to pro­duce good typog­ra­phy. That’s your job. Court rules set min­i­mums and max­i­mums. They’re usu­ally phrased in terms ofat least” andno more than.” Very rarely do they com­pletely elim­i­nate dis­cre­tion.

I’m not sug­gest­ing you should use this dis­cre­tion to be dif­fer­ent for the sake of being dif­fer­ent. Rather, you should use this dis­cre­tion to fill in what the court rules delib­er­ately leave incom­plete.