Several amendments to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure are scheduled to take effect on December 1, and one of those amendments is causing consternation among appellate practitioners: a 1000-word reduction in the word limit for principal briefs, along with a 500-word reduction for reply briefs. Since 1998, the Rules have allotted parties 14,000 words for their principal briefs, provided that they comply with certain typeface requirements. Under the new Rules, that limit will be reduced to 13,000 words. Reply briefs will continue to be limited to half the length of principal briefs, and will therefore be shortened by 500 words.
In support of the rule change, the Advisory Committee noted that the current 14,000-word limit resulted from an attempt in 1998 to convert the 50-page limit then in effect into a cap on words. At that time, the Committee concluded that briefs generally contained about 280 words per page — and 280 words-per-page times 50 pages equaled 14,000 words. Now, the Committee has revised its view and concluded that appellate briefs prior to 1998 actually had closer to 250 words per page, which in its view justified reducing the word limit to 12,500 words. Pushback from appellate practitioners resulted in the new limit being upped from 12,500 to 13,000 words.