Thursday, June 22, 2017

4/1 calls out word-count-gamesmanship

In this unpub'd decision here today, 4/1 includes a footnote (fn. 2) to "disapprove" of respondent's counsel's "blatant violation" of the word-count rule. What did counsel do? Well, because this was a cross-appeal situation, respondent/cross-appellant had 28K words, and filed a brief with a word-count-certificate of 27,952 words. On its face, seems ok, right? But the court notices that "counsel intentionally omitted spaces and inserted slashes (/) in case and record citations" to get a lower word count. For example:
Image result for dodging bullets
Dodging bullets!
  • by citing "1Supp.CT/57,2Supp.CT/492-496," counsel has misrepresented that this record reference is one word rather than eight; and
  • by citing "Martinez,supra,56Cal.4th/1014," and "(1998)198Cal.App.3d/1225,1240," counsel has misrepresented that these case citations are each one word rather than five.
The court says that this sort of citation is "noncompliant" but declines to strike or otherwise punish counsel "only because we do not want to further delay disposition of this appeal." (The court also notes that respondent's brief "cites to evidence as to which the trial court sustained [] objections"--and the court therefore "disregarded all such references.")

Gamesmanship in case citations has been noted in other cases too. In Pi-Net Int'l Inc. v. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (Fed.Cir. 2015) 600 Fed. Appx. 744, the court issued an OSC re striking the opening brief and dismissing the appeal (which it ultimately did) because a brief claiming to be 14K words had "squeez[ed] various words together and delet[ed] spaces that should appear between the words." For example, the brief cited Thorner v. Sony Computer Entm't Am. LLC, 669 F.3d 1362, 1365 (Fed. Cir. 2012) [14 words in proper Bluebook format] as just one word: "Thorner.v.SonyComputerEntm'tAm.LLC,669F3d1362,1365(Fed.Cir.2012)."

California's rule allows the use of BlueBook or Yellowbook citation format. Although Yellowbook form uses "Cal.App.4th" [no spaces] as opposed to the BlueBook's longer "Cal. App. 4th" [3 words because of the spaces], neither format (of course) allows entirely removing all spaces from case citations.

Meanwhile, up in 2/3, take a gander at this unpub here, where the majority dismisses an appeal because the order at issue not appealable and superseded by a judgment, but the pro tem on the panel dissents, saying the dismissal is for a "procedural defect" and while a writ would have been "better practice" the case (involving pro bono counsel) "warrants a review on the merits."