Friday, March 19, 2021

Font Fight

As the ABA Journal and other news outlets reported this week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a new notice on "Preferred Typefaces for Briefs." The notice indicated that the court was revising its Handbook of Procedures and Internal Practices "to encourage the use of typefaces that are easier to read and to discourage use of Garamond."

Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32(a)(5) doesn't encourage or discourage the use of specific fonts in briefs, but does outline general rules for font spacing and size. The D.C. Circuit's new handbook language fleshes out the FRAP requirements with additional guidance: "Certain typefaces can be easier to read, such as Century and Times New Roman. The Court encourages the use of these typefaces. Briefs that use Garamond as the typeface can be more difficult to read and the use of this typeface is discouraged."

The announcement quickly sparked chatter on social media, with some attorneys reading the change to be largely directed at the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Appellate Staff (which uses the disfavored Garamond font in its briefs). Fans of Garamond expressed disappointment in the change, while detractors derided its "ugly" italics and cramped spacing. (Want to delve more into the great legal font debates? Check out Matthew Butterick's thought-provoking book Typography for Lawyers, available for Library Takeout or full-text, pay-what-you-can online.)

The amusing kerfuffle serves as a good reminder of the importance of consulting local court rules when preparing filings. As noted, different courts can require or recommend vastly different typefaces, from the U.S. Supreme Court's preference for the Century family to the Seventh Circuit's discouragement of Times New Roman (one of the D.C. Circuit's new preferred fonts). For more information on researching the general and local court rules for a particular jurisdiction, check out the library's research guide to Court Rules or Ask a Librarian.