Confused by F.R.A.P. 32(a)(7)(A) and (B)? Many are. Here is the Answer.

F.R.A.P. 32(a)(7)(A) currently states:

“A principal brief may not exceed 30 pages, or a reply brief 15 pages, unless it complies with Rule 32(a)(7)(B) and (C).”

Have you ever run into the 30-page “brick wall” when drafting your appellant’s or appellee’s brief in an appeal to a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals? Take heart, you are currently entitled to at least an additional 30 pages. Important to note: This will change on December 1, 2016 when the Proposed Amendments to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure are approved by Congress. See the chart of the new length limits at page 35 of the Order of the U.S. Supreme Court, dated April 28, 2016,

As an appellate services provider, many clients tell me that their opening or responding brief is in excess of the 30-page limit and they are at their wit’s end trying to cut text and reduce the number of pages. After all, they say, the rules only allow for a 30-page limit. The answer is in F.R.A.P. 32(a)(7)(B).

The pertinent part of F.R.A.P. 32(a)(7)(B) currently states:

“A principal brief is acceptable if it contains no more than 14,000 words or it uses a monospaced face and contains no more than 1,300 lines of text.”

Fonts, consisting of monospaced face, such as Courier New, are very rarely used in the Circuit Courts of Appeal so the 1,300-line limit will not be discussed herein.

The 14,000-word limit is a boon to the appellate practitioner. This is because a 14,000-word brief in the preferred font, Times New Roman 14 point, footnotes included, normally translates to a brief that is between 60-63 pages in length. The appellate practitioner is thereby free to draft a complete brief that tailors the facts and argument to the complexity of the case without being limited by a 30-page rule.

If the brief is in excess of 30 pages, according to F.R.A.P. 32(a)(7)(C), the brief must include “a certificate by the attorney, or an unrepresented party, that the brief complies with the type volume limitation. The person preparing the certificate may rely on the word or line count of the word-processing system used to prepare the brief. The certificate must state either: the number of words in the brief or the number of lines of monospaced type in the brief.”

The inclusion of the certificate would seem to be a small price to pay for such a large benefit of an additional 30-33 pages, and it should be used where appropriate. As mentioned in an earlier article, longer briefs by appellants have been associated with a greater probability in achieving a reversal, while exceptionally short briefs are much more likely to be filed in losing cases.

One might ask why the 30-page limit in the rule is not eliminated when the 14,000-word limit allows for a brief of twice the size. The answer, however, is beyond the scope of this article.