Monday, May 7, 2012

Real Lawyers Play the Line-Spacing Game

In a move truly reminiscent of first-year legal writing classes, it looks like a grown-up lawyer decided to manipulate line spacing to fall under a court-ordered page limit.  After being called out, it looks like he is relying on a literal interpretation of the term "double spaced."  Check out the Wall Street Journal Law Blog's coverage here:

Lawyers, as good advocates, try to cram as many arguments as possible in their legal briefs, particularly when judges impose limits on how much they can say.

However, one side in a trademark dispute in Manhattan federal court involving The Gap Inc. says their adversary went a little too far.

Patterson Belknap lawyers said [the other side] used a computer program to determine that the line spacing on Fross Zelnick’s reply brief was “1.75″ instead of double spaced.

Fross Zelnick replied, “As is our usual practice, the brief employs 12 point Times New Roman font formatted in Microsoft Word with the line spacing set at exactly 24 points, i.e., double the line height.”

The judge granted Patterson Belknap’s request to file a 30-page, instead of 25-page, brief on Thursday.

(dbb)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwriting/2012/05/real-lawyers-play-the-line-spacing-game.html

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Comments

The underlying problem here, both for courts and for professors seeking to impose limits on the size of briefs and other written submissions they receive, is the ambiguity of the term "double-spacing." That term has no fixed meaning and instead varies based on which word-processing program a document was created in. Even within a particular program, such as MSWord, the definition changes from version to version. Although point size, as compared to cap height, is also not a perfect measure of the vertical dimension of a particular typeface, it is less arbitrary than "double-spacing."
Even then, if the goal is to constrict the volume of written submissions, trying to control vertical space is only half the equation. The width of different fonts varies a good bit. To see this, type the lowercase alphabet in Times New Roman on one line, and in Century Schoolbook on another. And even within a typeface such as Times, the various digital font files that express that design vary in their glyph width and letterspacing from version to version.
Which is all to say that page-limit restrictions are ambiguous along several metrics. If courts, or professors, wish to meaningfully control the size of texts they receive, they need to start by replacing page limits with word limits. And if readability is a goal, requiring "double-spacing," however defined, will not help. Richard Neumann, Ruth Anne Robbins, Matthew Butterick and I will discuss and debate possible contours of a model court rule governing document design at the 15th Biennial LWI conference in Desert Springs.

Posted by: Derek Kiernan-Johnson | May 10, 2012 4:03:54 AM

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