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The technorevolution is to blame. Until computers were everywhere, most appellate courts had one of two rules: either a brief had to be professionally printed (leaving the printer to worry about fonts), or a brief could be done in whatever font happened to be on your typewriter. Now there are no technological limits to the judicial conception of the perfect font for appellate briefs. Every court has its own rules — which change, it seems, once every year or two. (Do judges hold font focus groups?) The first font wars were fought over proportional type. Ecologically-minded courts wanted proportional fonts, where each character takes only the space it needs, and no more. Other courts, suspecting that lawyers would pore over dictionaries in search of words with skinny letters (so as to fit more words in the allotted pages), demanded uncompromising monospaced fonts. In those courts, an “i” and an “M” get the same amount of space, no matter how many trees must fall. But the proportionality debate is now passe (except in geopolitics). The font follies now focus on serifs — those extra lines at the end of a character, like the tiny flag at the top of an “l.” Some courts demand serifs; some detest them. Some courts are tradition-bound. The U.S. Supreme Court is firmly in the serif camp. Its Rule 33 requires that papers filed in those august offices occupy a 4-1/8 inch by 7-1/8 inch text field on a 6-1/8 inch by 9-1/4 inch page in a Roman 11-point typeface “similar to that used in the current volume of the United States Reports.” In case you’re wondering, that’s “Century Schoolbook.” “Bookman Old Style” is “similar.” In the federal circuits, bigger is better. In a 1998 change to Rule 32 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, the circuit judges abandoned page limits for word limits. While word limits take the sport out of brief-packing, FRAP 32 does have an upside for those of us who’ve hit the bifocal years: Now that pages don’t matter, federal appellate briefs must be printed in a 14-point font — roughly the size used by Dr. Seuss. The only caveat: The font for the brief’s text must have serifs. (But headings, for reasons known only to the United States Judicial Conference, can have “sans serif” fonts.) Even Connecticut’s appellate courts have joined the font fray. The old rule reasonably let you use any 12-point, noncondensed font. But a recent amendment to Practice Book � 67-2 (effective September 1, in case you missed it) requires that all briefs use one of three fonts — Arial, Courier New (allowed only through June 2002), or Univers. You have to certify compliance. (No squeezing in Arial Narrow.) Now, Arial is a stripped-down sans serif font, good for cookbooks and poetry and e-mail — but I find it hard to read in large blocks. (I’m not alone. The Advisory Committee Notes to FRAP 32 assure us that “[s]tudies have shown that long passages of serif type are easier to read and comprehend than long passages of sans-serif type.”) And Arial is spartan: One Internet authority calls it “cold and heartless.” (The IRS uses its evil twin, Helvetica.) But worst of all: Arial is a fat font. A 35-page brief in Times New Roman becomes a 38-page brief when converted to Arial. The other choices, though, are no better. Courier New is outmoded, a manual typewriter style, and Univers — well, it’s another stripped-down sans serif type, but it’s even greedier than Arial. A 35-page brief in Times New Roman becomes a 40-page brief in Univers. But rules are rules. If there’s one thing appellate lawyers know, it’s when to follow rules. So in Connecticut it’s Arial for me — until the next rule change. Sheila Huddleston is an appellate lawyer at Hartford, Conn.’s Shipman & Goodwin.

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