Appellate Practice

7th Circuit Zaps Lawyer for Exceeding 14K Word Limit in Brief, Summarily OKs Lower Court Decision

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In a blistering opinion (PDF) today, a federal appeals court not only stated or implied that a lawyer had been untruthful in his certification that a brief met the 14,000-word limit but criticized his “rambling” writing.

Then, saying that any further effort by appellant attorney John Caudill to file a brief that complied with the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules would be pointless, a three-judge panel summarily affirmed the district court decision in the case.

While it did not dismiss the appeal as a sanction for Caudill’s certification that the brief was within the word limit, it has the power to do so, the court said in a six-page ruling authored by Judge Richard Posner:

“The flagrancy of the violation in this case might well justify the dismissal of the appeal: let this be a warning. But in addition it is plain from the briefs that the appeal has no merit. To allow time for the appellants to file a compliant brief and the appellees to file a revised brief in response, and to reschedule oral argument, would merely delay the inevitable.”

The opinion also says that Caudill jumped to the false conclusion that his opposing counsel had informed the 7th Circuit of the word-limit violation in an ex parte communication. In fact, a footnote in the appellees’ brief informed the appeals court that Caudill had submitted an 18,000-word brief, the panel explains.

Caudill, who appears to practice in Kentucky, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the ABA Journal late in the day. He represents two individuals in the False Claims Act case against Scott Memorial Hospital, which was brought in the Southern District of Indiana.

Hat tip: How Appealing and Above the Law.

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