The Courier Font

Rule 2:6-10, which addresses the format of appellate briefs, states (among other things) that Supreme Court of New Jersey and Appellate Division briefs “shall contain no more than 26 double-spaced lines of no more than 65 characters including spaces, each of no less than 10-pitch or 12-point type,” with margins of “approximately one inch.”  The Comment to that rule says that “[w]hile a variety of word-processing fonts will meet the requirements of the rule, Courier BT is the most commonly acceptable font and meets the requirements of the rule.”  As a result, briefs in those courts generally use a Courier font.  The Third Circuit uses a combination of page limits and word limits, in accordance with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 29(e)(1) and (2), with no particular font necessarily required.

Some New Jersey lawyers are critical of the need to use Courier since most attorneys now use Times New Roman as their standard font.  Apparently, they are not alone.  An article in yesterday’s Boston Globe, which discussed the requirement that Courier be used in Massachusetts appeals, labels the font “old-fashioned.”  The article states that Massachusetts is one of just five states whose highest courts use Courier for their opinions, and one of just three states, along with New Jersey and Alabama, that require appellate briefs to be submitted in Courier font.  The article quotes Bryan Garner as calling Courier “the modern lawyer’s hair shirt– purposefully self-inflicted pain.”  Matthew Butterick, the author of “Typography for Lawyers,” is quoted in the article to the effect that Courier is “hard to read, and the written equivalent of ‘droning along in a monotone.'”

The article suggests that the requirement of Courier for Massachusetts appellate briefs arises out of the fact that Massachusetts does not have electronic filing for appeals, so there is no way to monitor closely the number of words in a brief, as the federal courts do.  New Jersey too does not yet have electronic filing for all appellate briefs, though electronic filing is being phased in at the Appellate Division level.  For those who object to Courier, and would prefer word limits instead, the adoption of electronic filing in all appeals may herald that sort of change.  Nonetheless, many appellate judges prefer Courier, differing with Garner, Butterick, and other Courier critics.  The judges, including most importantly the Justices, who make the rules, will always have the final word about fonts.