The Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure set a 70-page limit for a principal appellate brief and oddly mandate the text be printed in the font Courier New at size 13.  This font style takes up more lines for the same text than other fonts and thereby reduces the “true” number of pages available in the brief.  This page limitation can become quite the burden on a brief writer if an appeal involves an extensive set of facts and multiple complex legal issues.  However, the rules do provide for a solution to this problem.  In “extraordinary circumstances,”a party may file with the appellate court, pursuant to Rule 28(j), Ala.R.App.P., a motion for permission to file a brief exceeding the standard page limitation.  This motion must be filed “at least seven days before the date on which the brief is due.”  In addition to other circumstances, I have succeeded in obtaining permission to file a brief containing 10 additional pages where I have been able to state in the motion that the appeal involves issues of first impression of Alabama law, an issue involving interpretation of a federal statute where there was a split of opinion between the federal circuit courts of appeals, and where a very large jury verdict was at issue.  So don’t think that the arbitrary limitation of 70 pages for an Alabama appellate court brief is without exception.  File Rule 28(j) your motion if you can confidently state that yours is an “extraordinary circumstance.”

Appeal documents

Appeal briefs (Photo credit: Sheila Steele)

Another issue that comes up often in writing appellate briefs is whether you can extend the filing date of your brief.  Rule 31, Ala.R.App. provides that each party may freely obtain upon request to the clerk’s office of the Alabama appellate court a one-time one-week extension of a filing date.  However,  further extension of time is available by motion pursuant to Rule 26, Ala.R.App.P.  Such a motion should be filed as far in advance as possible, and will not be granted except under exceptional circumstances, such as personal illness or computer malfunction.