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Many appellate counsel could be unknowing violators of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure’s strict 14,000 word limit on briefs. Apparently, an idiosyncrasy in current versions of Microsoft Word may lead you to believe that footnotes are being included in a word count – when they’re not. The issue was uncovered in DeSilva v. DiLeonardi, a July 21 decision from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. A three judge panel declined to sanction the plaintiffs’ lawyers for exceeding the word limit, but warned that the clerk’s office will begin spot-checking briefs prepared with MS Word. “The risks are not only for lawyers, but if a brief is bounced, it could also prejudice a client’s case,” says Michael Rotker, an associate at D.C.’s Wiley, Rein & Fielding, who circulated a firmwide memo cautioning lawyers and paralegals.

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