Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

5 New Appellate Rules You Should Know About

call to actionSay goodbye to Courier font and page limits, and hello to Century font and word counts.

Those are two of the sweeping changes ushered in by the new North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.

The overhaul took effect on January 1 and applies to all appeals filed after that date. Some of the provisions are brand new. Others have been tweaked. You can view the revised rules here.

Wake Forest law professor Laura Graham – a former clerk at the NC Court of Appeals – highlights five of the most notable changes in this post on the NCBA blog Long Leaf Law:

  1. New font requirements. Lawyers of a certain age who are nostalgic for manual typewriters might shed a tear over the passing of Courier font. But everyone else will be delighted. It is hard to read text in non-proportional fonts like Courier, which is why new Rule 26(g)(1) says: “All printed matter must appear in font no smaller than 12-point and no larger than 14-point, using a proportionally spaced font with serifs.” Two examples of permissible fonts: Constantia and Century.
  2. Page limits replaced by word counts. Under Rule 28(j), appellate briefs are now subject to word counts, not page limits. “Principal briefs may not exceed 8,750 words, and reply briefs and amicus briefs may not exceed 3,750 words,” Graham writes. “And you can’t get around the word count by using footnotes, because footnotes are included in the word count (as are citations)…. The whole point is to level the playing field; no matter what font and size each party chooses, both parties have the same amount of ‘air time’ for their arguments.”
  3. New procedure for en banc hearings. Under Rule 31.1, a party may request an en banc hearing in the Court of Appeals by showing (1) it is “necessary to secure or maintain uniformity of the court’s decision” and (2) “the case involves a question of exceptional importance.”
  4. Requirements for reply briefs. Per Rule 26(h), reply briefs are now generally permitted. In most circumstances, reply briefs are limited to 3,750 words. They must also be “limited to a concise rebuttal of arguments set out in the appellee’s brief” and do not “reiterate arguments set forth in the appellant’s principal brief.”
  5. Protecting confidentiality in exhibits. Documentary exhibits can either be included in the printed record or incorporated in it by filing three copies with clerk. But social security numbers must be redacted or deleted, pursuant to Rule 9(d)(3). Failure to do so is a violation of the rules.

To see what practitioners think of these changes, check out the North Carolina Appellate Practice Blog.

Do you practice appellate law? What is your experience with the new rules?


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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