The NFL Learns a Lesson: Briefs With the Wrong Color Cover Get Bounced

This first post of 2016 reminds us all that appellate courts all have rules that dictate even mundane matters, such as the color of brief covers.  Appellate judges take those rules seriously, since those rules enable judges to know at a glance which brief they are about to read.

Last week, the National Football League learned that lesson in its appeal in the “Deflategate” case involving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Second Circuit Docket No. 15-2801cv.  As reported here, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the NFL’s reply brief because it had a cover of the wrong color.  The NFL was permitted to and did cure that deficiency, but its lawyers (distinguished appellate practitioners and firms) were made to look silly because of it.

A recap about brief cover color rules:  in New Jersey state appellate courts (both the Supreme Court of New Jersey and the Appellate Division), Rule 2:6-6(b) mandates that the appellant’s main brief have a white cover, the respondent’s brief a blue cover, and the appellant’s reply must a buff cover.  In the Third Circuit, under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32(a)(2), the cover colors are blue, red, and gray, respectively.  In the Supreme Court of the United States, Supreme Court Rule 33.1(g) has different sets of required colors for briefs on petitions for certiorari and for merits briefs.  All of these appellate courts call for additional colors in particular special circumstances, such as if there is a cross-appeal or a filing by an amicus curiae.

Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader of this blog (actually, “eagle-eyed” is probably the wrong term since that reader is a fellow Giants fan) for calling this to my attention.