Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem.  Most things are judged by their jackets. ~ Baltasar Gracián

keep-calm-i-ve-got-you-coveredWhen part of your job revolves around reviewing Supreme Court brief covers, you begin to notice things like diamond lines, paragraph indents, and big/small caps.  You notice that the lead counsel has abbreviated her state’s name while co-counsel has not.  You notice that each signature block contains inconsistent fax number information.  And you notice that you should probably take a break from reviewing covers for awhile.

Supreme Court covers are a matter of style and substance.  The Court is incredibly particular when it comes to what must be included.  According to Supreme Court Rule 34.1, each cover shall bear: (a) a docket number, or if it is a petition, a space for one;  (b) the Supreme Court’s name; (c) the caption; (d) the nature of the proceeding and the name of the court which issued the judgment to be appealed; (e) the document title; and (f) attorney contact information.

This seems easy enough, but as with most things at the Supreme Court level, the Devil is in the details.  Here are some tips on the substance and style of Supreme Court brief covers:

  • Font: Although the Court requires that in all booklet-format cases, briefs must be typeset in a Century family font, see Rule 33.1(c) (most use New Century Schoolbook because that is the font the Court uses), there is an unwritten but accepted exception for the Court’s name on the front cover.
  • Case caption, part I: The caption must not merely recite the caption in the lower court, it must explain the adversarial nature of the case in the Supreme Court.  That is why Rule 34.1(c) says the caption must be listed “as appropriate in this Court.”  Also, the Court – and especially the Clerk’s Office – could not care less about designations such as plaintiff, appellant, and intervenor; those designations should not be included in the caption because the Clerk’s Office is concerned only with petitioners and respondents.
  • Case caption, part II: All parties not petitioning the Court for review are considered respondents, even if those respondents support the petition, see Rule 12.6.  If you cannot reasonably list the parties on the front cover, you can designate a party as “et al.,” and carry the additional parties over to the “List of Parties” page in the index, see Rule 14.1(b).
  • Signature blocks: The cover must contain the name of the attorney who is counsel of record for the party concerned (who must be a member of the Supreme Court Bar) with a notation directly thereunder identifying the attorney as counsel of record and setting out his/her address, e-mail address, and telephone number. Only one counsel of record may be noted on a single document, except that counsel of record for each party must be listed on the cover of a joint appendix.  The names of other members of the Supreme Court Bar or of the bar of the highest court in a state may be added.  Supreme Court and state court bar numbers are not typically included.