Appellate Practice

3rd Circuit Tells Prosecutors to Cut Brief After ‘Moby-Dick’ Objection

A federal appeals court has ordered prosecutors challenging the fraud sentence for a Pennsylvania politician to slash their brief by about 20 percent.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the shorter brief, despite prosecutors’ objections that they needed the extra pages “to thoroughly describe the numerous sentencing errors committed in these proceedings,” the Legal Intelligencer reports.

The government’s original brief came in at 53,000 words and 281 pages, although court rules usually limit the opening brief to 14,000 words, the story says. Prosecutors are challenging a 55-month prison sentence for former Pennsylvania state Sen. Vincent Fumo, convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice for misusing funds from a charity and using Senate staffers for personal and campaign work. The brief also challenged the one-year sentence for Fumo aide Ruth Arnao.

Lawyers for the defendants sought the shorter brief, the Legal Intelligencer wrote in a prior story. “If briefing were to continue at this pace with briefs of proportionate length filed by all parties, the court will be faced with nearly 1,500 pages of briefs totaling almost 300,000 words—a sum nearly half again as long as Moby-Dick,” they wrote.

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