Supreme Court Briefing Rules:

A reader asks in response to my post on the elaborate 7th Circuit brief formatting rules:

I still can't figure out why the Supreme Court is still caught up in the ridiculous 6x9 printed format for briefs when every single other court in the country accepts regular paper from a laser printer.

Does anyone know the answer to this? Why does the Supreme Court persist in this peculiarity? Is there some technological reason or is it pure tradition?

Tom Goldstein (mail) (www):
Tradition, with the consequence that the Justices are used to that format and most comfortable with it, plain and simple. Even paupers -- who file in 8.5 x 11 -- then get their briefs printed (at the Court's expense) in the booklet format once cert. is granted.
7.12.2005 12:45pm
Proud Generation Y Slacker:
6x9 is an older page size, and it's much closer to typical book proportions than is 8.5 x 11. It's also much more attractive, since it's near the natural proportions of 1:1.414 (square root of 2), and 1:1.618 (the golden section). I'm all for it.

No, I don't have a real answer.
7.12.2005 12:52pm
Dale Gribble (mail) (www):
Why printed briefs? Patronage to print shops? I filed 2 pro se cert pets and since i didnt think an IFP affidavit from me would fly i had to pay a print shop >$500 to print the cert briefs. Assoon as I filed them, i received solicitations from a local printing co that promised to prepare the briefs straight from your conventional paper size draft.
7.12.2005 12:53pm
Justice Fuller:
It's mostly tradition, albeit one that leads to a more professional looking brief.

The only function it serves today is a questionable one; cert petitions bound in the 6 x 9 format tend to be taken more seriously by law clerks writing cert pool memos.
7.12.2005 12:54pm
Scott from L-Cubed (mail) (www):
I think it's cute.
7.12.2005 1:43pm
DJ (mail):
I think it's so we lawyers can stack their bookshelves with their own denied cert petitions. Makes us look like members of a clubby Supreme Court bar when actually we're just losers!
7.12.2005 2:14pm
DJ (mail):
My previous comment should be deleted. It's garbled nonsense. What I meant to say is that I have a handful of cool-looking printed cert petitions that I've filed with the Court. All denied. But it looks cool to display them in my office bookshelves 'cause it makes me look like a Supreme Court practitioner--when, sadly, I in fact simply lost those cases.
7.12.2005 2:17pm
Dale Gribble (mail) (www):
Clerks treat printed briefs more seriously: and at least you get your case mentioned in US Law Week if its a printed cert pet.
7.12.2005 2:22pm
Tom Caso (mail) (www):
The rule makes even less sense now since the printer sends and electronic version of the brief to the court before ever mailing off the printed version. Makes me wonder why we have to pay to print them at all!!
7.12.2005 2:46pm
John Lederer (mail):
I believe the reason for the size is that it was (and may still be) the practice for petitions and briefs to be bound together as books and deposited in the court's library -- a valuable resource for one preparing a petition or brief.
7.12.2005 2:49pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail):
Can someone suggest either a lowest-cost printer, or maybe some open source software along the lines of "filing in the supreme court for dummies." I found the briefing format a major headache last time I had a cert-worthy case. ( The 7th circuit got the merits wrong after rejecting several of my briefs for what seemed like <b>arbitrary</b> and capricious reasons.)
7.12.2005 6:50pm
anon2 (mail):
arbitraryaardvark, I'm told that Eben Moglen files his supreme court amicus briefs in LateX. I bet he would send you the template he uses if you asked.
7.12.2005 7:35pm
John Anderson:
Look at a hard-cover novel. It's roughly 6x9! Esoteric, or just that many bookcases are made for this size? Why reference books, such as encyclopedias, are often quite different in size is less obvious.
7.13.2005 2:10am
Robert Schwartz (mail):
"We've always done it that way."

You were expecting technological innovation from a bunch of geezers who ought to be in a nursing home? Get Real.
7.13.2005 1:25pm
I was told by a DC printer who specializes in Supreme Court briefs that the Court has cases that were designed specifically to accommodate 6x9 documents. If true, then the size is purely a matter of tradition and economics (the Court's).

As for printed briefs, I don't think one is required to use a printer. One could use a word processor to print a brief and then trim the paper to the appropriate size.
7.13.2005 3:29pm