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Judge Sets 15-Page Limit on Legal Briefs

May 19, 1992

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) _ A federal judge, perturbed by a proliferation of paper, declared his patience with legal briefs ends at the bottom of page 15.

Senior U.S. District Judge Bruce Van Sickle, in a letter published last week in a North Dakota Bar Association magazine, announced he will read only 15 pages of any motion or brief, unless the lawyer gets permission to file more.

″Please recall an observation credited to Winston Churchill: ’The length of this document defends it well against the risk of being read,‴ he said.

James Hill, president of the state bar, said he would prefer a 25-page limit.

But he said, ″I can see his point. If you don’t capture the judge’s attention within the first limited number of pages, you’ve probably lost him.″

Some federal district courts already impose limits on paperwork lawyers may file, Van Sickle said.

Patrick Durick, a lawyer who is chairman of a federal court advisory panel, said a brevity rule is being prepared for consideration in North Dakota’s federal courts.

Van Sickle wrote his declaration in exasperation over a voluminous brief filed in connection with ″some minor motion″ in a civil case.

″What I think we’re seeing is ... let’s call it a building of lawyers’ work,″ the judge said Monday. ″My hackles rise when I see work that I don’t think is necessary, and yet is billable.″

North Dakota’s chief federal judge, Patrick Conmy, said he sympathized with Van Sickle’s complaint.

″Sometimes lawyers ship the entire warehouse, instead of the one box we care about,″ he said.

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