Lower Word Limits for Briefs?

A proposed change to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure would lower the word limit for principal appellate briefs from 14,000 to 12,500 words and for reply briefs from 7,000 to 6,250 words (hat tip to Emil Kiehne at the New Mexico Appellate Blog). The comment to the proposed rule explains that the 14,000 word limit was based on the prior 50-page limit with an assumption of 280 words per page, but that no one seems to know where that word-per-page number came from. The committee now believes it was an error and proposes a new rule based on 250 words per page.This should be of interest to Texas lawyers for two reasons. First (obviously), this will impact those who practice regularly in federal court.Second, we are almost two years into using word limits instead of page limits for briefs in Texas state court. The state-court word limits are actually higher than the current federal limits. After some discussion, the Supreme Court Advisory Committee recommended a 15,000 word limit for principal briefs and a 7,500 word limit on reply briefs, which the Supreme Court adopted. These limits were based on an estimate of 300 words per page. And unlike the federal 280-words-per-page assumption, we know where that estimate came from. Several members of the Advisory Committee analyzed their own briefs and briefs filed in the Texas Supreme Court to come up with that word-count estimate. (This was a hotly debated topic at the Advisory Committee. If you are a true procedure geek (or if you just really need something to read), check it out here. The discussion starts on page 5 and runs through page 35 and again from page 42 to page 45.)So, what do you think? Will lower limits in federal court crimp your style or are 12,500 words plenty? Also, if the federal courts adopt a lower word limit, should Texas courts consider a lower limit, as well? Let’s hear it in the comments.Also, if you want to make an official comment on the proposed amendments to the federal rules, click here for information about how to do so. The deadline for comments is February 17, 2015.– Rich Phillips, Thompson & Knight