Ever since 1997 when the "new" Texas Rules of
Appellate Procedure came into effect, long-winded lawyers in Texas
have perfected all manner of chicanery to cram words into the page
limits for Texas appellate briefs.
Times they are 'a changin'.
The Supreme Court's proposed new rules impose word limits on Texas
appellate briefs and petitions. This is a much better way to
control the amount of content in a brief without destroying its
Page limitations just invite unreadable briefs. Lawyers will
simply cram in more content by choosing a narrow font (like Times
New Roman) and destroying white space by smearing in excessive
footnotes and using the longest permissible line length.
So word limits are good. But one proposed change in the
court's rules actually impairs readability.
After the jump a plea to abandon 14 point fonts. Please consider
this my public comment.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those whipper
snappers who mocks his elders and their presbyopia. I too must hunt
for my reading glasses to read the paper. Those big letters on my
iPad sure are legible.
But legibility and readability are not the same thing.
Legibility is being able to recognize letters clearly in order
to sound out word by word. That's why we use huge, clearly
rendered fonts for children who are learning to read.
That's why we use large, sans-serif fonts for freeway
But briefs with 14,000 words need to be readable in addition to
being legible. The eye needs to be able to move smoothly across the
top shapes of the letters and get from line to line without fixation pauses.
A large body of scientific research indicates
exactly what kind of type setting promotes readability and
understanding. It is NOT double spaced 14 point font with one
inch margins on a line of type that is 6.5 inches long.
That is just a choice left over from the age of the Smith Corona
typewriter. No professional typographer would choose such a layout
to create a readable, professionally typeset product.
Go ahead. Go to Barnes & Noble or Amazon or any bookshop of
your choice and attempt to find something written in 14 point
double spaced fonts with a 6.5 inch line length. Download a book to
your iPad. It will NOT be in 14 point double spaced font.
If presbyopia or other vision problems make that illegible, fix
the reader. Correct the vision. Adjust the magnification on the
reader's iPad. Don't destroy the basic
That's how the Supreme Court of the United States does it.
And they are not any younger or hipper than our judges in Texas.
Quite the opposite. They are older and blinder.
And yet they manage a pile of briefs with type quite small by
the standards of the proposed rules. They don't use Supreme
Court typography just to be unique or cool (even though it is ever
so cool). The typography they use is the typography chosen by a
professional print shop.
Because it is readable.
This is readable:
They are not the same thing.
We don't have to go all the way to Supreme Court typography
if that's too severe. Something like my
Goldilocks Brief might be workable with its wider margins, 1.5
line spacing and extra white space between paragraphs.
Once upon a time, long ago but not too far away, there was a law firm associate who was working up a case for a senior trial partner with the hope of delivering a well-prepared pre-trial and trial plan.