Trials & Litigation

Judge scolds BP for squeezing extra lines into brief

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Updated: BP is on notice that a federal judge will be closely scrutinizing its briefs for excess words in litigation over the Gulf oil spill.

In an order (PDF) on Monday, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said BP evidently abused a 35-page limit by slightly squeezing the spacing between the lines. The limit was already 10 pages longer than usual, and it called for a double-spaced brief.

As a result of the manipulation, Barbier said, BP exceeded the already enlarged page limit by about six pages. Slate and NPR have stories.

“The court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules—particularly in a case as massive and complex as this,” Barbier wrote. “Counsel are expected to follow the court’s orders both in letter and in spirit. The court should not have to resort to imposing character limits, etc., to ensure compliance. Counsel’s tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here.

“Any future briefs using similar tactics will be struck.”

BP is represented by several law firms, and Barbier did not identify the firm at fault. He did, however, reference the Pacer number on the offending brief, which was submitted under the electronic signature of Kirkland & Ellis lawyer J. Andrew Langan. A request to Langan for comment was referred to a Kirkland spokeswoman, who told the ABA Journal that the filing was double-spaced.

“BP’s brief used the double-space setting on Microsoft Word and complied with the local rules,” she said in an emailed statement. “It was consistent with briefs BP has filed with the court before. We will, of course, comply with the court’s new directions going forward.”

Hat tip to How Appealing and Above the Law.

Updated Sept. 19 to include comment from Kirkland & Ellis.

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