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Texas Appellate Law Blog Civil Appellate Practice Tips, Resources, and News

SCOTX Adopts Word-Count Rule

Posted in Appellate Practice, Briefs, Petition for Review, Procedure, Technology

The Texas Supreme Court has issued an order incorporating word counts into the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure. The order amends Rules 9, 38, 49, 52, 53, 55, 64, 68, 70, and 71. Some highlights of the amendments include (for computer-generated briefs in civil cases):

  • a minimum 14-point font (12-point for footnotes);
  • a 15,000-word limit for briefs or responses;
  • a 7,500-word limit for reply briefs; 
  • aggregate briefing limits of 27,000 words per party in the intermediate courts of appeals;
  • a 4,500 word limit for petitions and responses filed in the Supreme Court;
  • a 2,400-word limit for responses filed in the Supreme Court; and 
  • a certificate of compliance requirement.

The amendments will be published in the Texas Bar Journal and may be changed in response to public comments received by the Court’s rules attorney, Marisa Secco (marisa.secco@txcourts.gov), on or before November 1, 2012.

Moving from 13-point to 14-point font should make briefs more readable, although readability for the court user will depend on whether a document is viewed on paper, on a full-size computer screen, or on a mobile device. Adopting word counts alleviates concerns about how to deal with images in briefs and will reduce the temptation to manipulate margins, fonts, and so forth to beat a hard page limit.

Some appellate practitioners have expressed concern that these particular word limits will reduce the volume of information that can be included in each type of document. As I said when interviewed by Texas Lawyer on the subject, that will encourage us to be more concise.

Update:  The original order posted on the Court’s website did not specify an effective date. The version now appearing (and linked above) indicates that the changes will go into effect December 1, 2012.