Andrew Rubin, Esq.

Line spacing trick in motion brief earns firm $1,048 sanction

It was a trick worthy of a long-winded high school student, and it did not pay off. A federal judge has just fined a national law firm over $1,000 for violating the U.S. District Court in Manhattan's line-spacing rules for memoranda and briefs. The court requires briefs to be no longer than 25 pages, double-spaced, but the firm slightly reduced the line spacing in order to get in more words.

The snafu took place during a case alleging unfair competition and trademark infringement by Amazon Web Services, Inc. According to the ABA Journal, the lawsuit alleges that the name of Amazon's new collaboration software, "Chime," violates a trademark owned by CafeX, which was using it for its own collaboration software.

The Manhattan federal court's individual rules, which apply only to litigants in that court, require that memoranda and briefs "be double-spaced and in 12-point font with 1-inch margins" and no more than 25 pages long.

"Amazon's memorandum of law opposing CafeX's Motion was 24-point spaced, not double spaced," U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero wrote in his sanction order, "and allowed Amazon to submit a substantially longer memorandum than the 25 pages provided by this Court's Individual Rules."

"The flouting of this Court's Individual Rules was a deliberate choice by counsel for Amazon to gain some slight advantage in this litigation. As such, this Court ordered Amazon to replace its memorandum with a compliant memorandum and submit a declaration stating the cost of filing the revised memorandum," or $1,048.09.

Judge Marrero said the fine was meant not only to produce a compliant brief but also to prevent future examples of this mischief.

While being sanctioned by a judge is not technically legal malpractice, it is certainly something to be avoided. All attorneys must check and comply with local court rules, and none should ever attempt to deceive a judge.

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