Appellate practice news: The end of (some) double spacing in Missouri

Posted On December 15, 2017

Effective January 1, 2018, a new Missouri rule dramatically changes the line spacing requirements for appellate briefs.

The rule effective until December 31 required double spacing for everything in the brief that matters to the writer—and the reader:

Rule 84.06(a) … The Brief shall: … (5) Be double-spaced, except that the cover, any required certificate of service, certificate required by Rule 84.06(c), and signature block may be single-spaced.

The double-space rule was imposed because when brief length was regulated by the number of pages, some attorneys used single spacing in footnotes and block quotes to shove more text onto a page. The change from page to word limits eliminated this incentive.

The new rule makes two changes: (1) default spacing is now 1.5 rather than 2.0; and (2) single spacing is allowed for additional material:

Rule 84.06(a) … A brief shall: … (5) Have line spacing not less than 1.5, except that the following may be single-spaced: the cover; headings; quotations more than two lines long; footnotes; certificate of service; certificate required by Rule 84.06(c); and signature block.

The use of 1.5 spacing makes the brief more readable, particularly on a computer or tablet screen. The use of single spacing in footnotes, headings, and block quotes helps the reader distinguish them from other text—again, making the brief more readable.

The change is consistent with recommendations made in the American Bar Association’s Council of Appellate Lawyers’ report, “The Leap from E-Filing to E-Briefing.”

The new Missouri rule contrasts with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32(a)(4), which allows similar single spacing but otherwise still requires double spaced text:

The text must be double-spaced, but quotations more than two lines long may be indented and single-spaced. Headings and footnotes may be single-spaced.

Missouri’s new rule 84.06(a)(5) applies only to appellate briefs. Though appellate briefs “shall conform to the requirements of rule 84.06” (81.18(a)), “all other documents shall … be double-spaced” (Rule 81.18(b)). That includes other documents filed with the appellate courts, such as motions for rehearing and applications for transfer.

Questions about this change can be directed to Jim Layton, who heads Tueth Keeney’s appellate practice group. Jim is a member of the two groups that initiated the change, the Missouri Supreme Court’s Appellate Practice Committee and the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator’s Efiling Rules Task Force. A former Chair of the ABA’s Council of Appellate Lawyers, Jim was also a member of the team that drafted the Council’s recommendations.