Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. used to write full-length Supreme Court briefs for a living, as a Hogan & Hartson partner. But now, as a consumer of such briefs, he’s become something of a critic, once famously stating that he never read a brief that was so good that he wished it were longer.

New rules (pdf) adopted by the Court last month set to take effect Feb. 16 will guarantee that Roberts and his colleagues won’t get longer briefs, at least in one category. One of the changes will require lawyers to keep their reply briefs at the merits stage to 6,000 words instead of the previous limit of 7,500. In an explanatory comment on the change, the clerk of the Court said the Court was returning to a length close to what it had required in earlier years when it used page limits. “Experience has shown that the increased volume limit has allowed for the filing of some briefs that repeat previous arguments rather than address only new material presented in intervening briefs.” In other words, lawyers have been padding their briefs.

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