Ruling in double-spacing kerfuffle, federal judge observes lawyers don't need 'more words on a page'
A federal judge in Tennessee is advising law firms involved in a kerfuffle over double-spacing that they should spend less time “figuring out how many sometimes-useless words will fit on a page.” Image from Shutterstock.
A federal judge in Memphis, Tennessee, is advising law firms involved in a kerfuffle over double-spacing that they should spend less time “figuring out how many sometimes-useless words will fit on a page.”
Chief U.S. District Judge Sheryl H. Lipman of the Western District of Tennessee weighed in Nov. 14, after the parties in an antitrust lawsuit used more than 60 pages of briefing and exhibits to argue over the meaning of double-spacing.
Lipman said neither caselaw nor local court rules address the meaning of double-spacing, and she wasn’t going to take a position either. But she did hold that 24-point double-spacing used by the plaintiffs did not violate the local rules because they didn’t spell out the meaning.
“The court further notes,” Lipman added, “that the last thing any party needs is more words on a page.”
Above the Law has the story.
Four BigLaw firms initiated the dispute with a “motion to require adherence with formatting requirements.” The firms. which represent the defendants, are Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz; Locke Lord; and Butler Snow.
The BigLaw firms complained that the plaintiffs’ opposition to a motion for summary judgment wasn’t double-spaced because the lines were 24 points apart, allowing about 27 lines per page instead of the more standard 23 lines. The firms wanted a court order for 28 points between lines, said to be the default spacing used in Microsoft Word, Google Docs and Apple Pages.
The plaintiffs opposed the motion, enlisting the help of a typography expert and delving into historical practice. Double-spacing means spacing that is twice the size of the font, they asserted, citing decisions by several courts that have considered the issue.
“Defendants’ motion is pettifoggery,” the plaintiffs alleged.
The plaintiffs also said the BigLaw firms had used 24-point line spacing in some documents filed with the court. The plaintiffs were represented by several firms, including the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, whose associate filed a declaration that each new lawyer there is given a copy of Typography for Lawyers, and it is generally followed.
The book’s author, Matthew Butterick, was the plaintiffs’ expert who filed a declaration that the plaintiffs’ brief is “definitely double-spaced.”
Lipman suggested that counsel for the defendants may have had an ulterior motive in raising the spacing issue.
“Reading between the slightly larger-spaced lines,” Lipman wrote, “it appears that defendants initially raised this issue in an attempt to extend their time to file a reply in support of their motion for summary judgment.”