The Perverse Incentives of Page Limits v. Word Limits

Some courts impose word limits. Other courts impose page limits. I do not like page limits. Crafty attorneys can use various methods to adjust the page-count. For example, they can tweak justification, page breaks, end-of-line hyphenation, and other elements to make a document take up less space. Of course, the most blatant trick is to bury stuff in footnotes. Footnotes are usually single-spaced, and in a smaller font. I’ll admit that I’ve used this approach in the past when I was running up against a word limit. The nature of a page limit creates this perverse incentive. I much prefer word limits. That number measures everything you write, regardless of the spacing and formatting issues.

Recently, Judge Boasberg (DDC) struck a brief “for violating the Court’s Local Rule on excessive footnotes, particularly given the length of the footnotes.”

This brief was filed by the DOJ Federal Programs Branch. There were twelve footnotes. The longest was seventeen lines! Far short of a #TillmanPage, but really long for a legal brief.

I suspect Judge Boasberg may have been miffed by DOJ’s practice before, and wanted to send a message.


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