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Typography in Appellate Briefs: Courier Fans, It Is Time to Make the Switch of the Century

Less than a year ago, we blogged on a CLE presentation by Court of Appeals Judge Rich Dietz on typography in appellate briefs.  At the time, Judge Dietz urged appellate practitioners to abandon the use of Courier and Times New Roman fonts (the two fonts specifically endorsed by the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure) in favor of the Century font family (the font used by North Carolina’s appellate courts when they publish their opinions).

An article entitled “Typography for Appellate Lawyers: Improving Appellate Briefs Through Better Fonts” was recently published in the NCBA’s Appellate Practice Section’s Per Curium newsletter.  The article contains enlightening illustrations on the readability of the three different font families.

Let us know if seeing really is believing—and whether you plan to make (or have already made) the Switch of the Century in your appellate briefs!

–Beth Scherer


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2 Responses to "Typography in Appellate Briefs: Courier Fans, It Is Time to Make the Switch of the Century"

  • J.D.
    August 6, 2016 - 11:37 am Reply

    Would Century Schoolbook comply with the appellate rules? Just wouldn’t want to go out on a limb if the rules only specifically mention Times New Roman and the Couriers…

    • Beth Scherer
      August 9, 2016 - 2:48 pm Reply

      Yes. Appellate Rule 28(j)(1) governs typeface in briefs to the Court of Appeals and states:

      “(B) Type size.
      1. Nonproportionally spaced type (e.g., Courier or Courier New) may not contain more than ten characters per inch (12-point).
      2. Proportionally spaced type (e.g., Times New Roman) must be 14-point or larger.
      3. Documents set in Courier New 12-point type or Times New Roman 14-point type will be deemed
      in compliance with these type size requirements.”

      While Courier New and Times New Roman are the “safe harbor” fonts, other fonts can comply with the Rule . Century Schoolbook is a proportionally spaced font, so as long as submitted in 14 point font (any larger font than 14 point looks ridiculous), the font would comply with Appellate Rule 28.

      Interestingly, I recently noticed that Rule 28’s typography requirements only govern briefs to the Court of Appeals. The provision of the Appellate Rules which would be applicable to both Supreme Court and Court of Appeals briefs is Appendix B:

      “Papers shall be prepared using at least 12-point type so as to produce a clear, black image. Documents shall be set either in nonproportional type or in proportional type, defined as follows: Nonproportional type is defined as 10-character-per-inch Courier (or an equivalent style of Pica) type that devotes equal horizontal space to each character. Proportional type is defined as any non-italic, nonscript font, other than nonproportional type, that is 14-point or larger.”

      According to this Wikipedia article, both Times New Roman and Century Schoolbook fall into the serif font family–not the script font family banned by Appendix B.

      I think as a critical mass moves to Century Schoolbook, we will see more briefs submitted in this font. (We may even get a rule amendment out of it). At a minimum, I would stop submitting in Courier font and got with TNR. Courier is horrible to read–especially on ipads

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