Monday, October 19, 2015

Sunday Best

Sharp dressingThe other day, a smartly dressed young woman came up to me at the reference desk.  Seems she had never been to our library and asked, "Am I appropriately dressed?"  The question took me off guard and I more closely looked at her outfit: a sleeveless top, pants, sensible shoes - heck, beside dapper dressed me, she could have won the best dressed contest that day!  Seems she was concerned because she was wearing a sleeveless top.  Oh, the shame!

Of course, her question got me thinking about law and legal things - specifically, about how to properly dress up your legal documents to be filed in court.  Daily, we have people who come into our law library complaining that their court documents were rejected or that the judge hammered them because they failed to follow the Rules of Court as it relates to the formatting of legal papers.

Wait, what?!  There are rules on how to format legal papers?!?  As it turns out, yes, there are.  In fact, darn near EVERY jurisdiction (State & Federal) have some Court Rules to govern how things are done in court.  For instance, California Rules of Court 1.20(a) states that unless otherwise provided, a document is deemed filed on the date it was received by the court clerk.  Sounds obvious, huh?  Well, as it turns out, that's the whole point - to clearly spell out what is (and what is not) acceptable in courts of law.  

On that note (of acceptability), Rules of Court 2.100 et seq. deals with the form of papers filed in court.  Heck, if you don't pay attention to anything else, you should take copious notes on the rules relating to the format of court papers, to wit:
  • 2.102:  One-sided paper: Only one side of each page may be used.
  • 2.103: Quality, color and size of paper: All papers must be on opaque, unglazed paper, white, not less than 20 pound weight, 8 1/2 by 11 inches.
  • 2.104: Printing; type size: All papers must be printed or typewritten not smaller than 12 points.
  • 2.105: Type style: Typeface must be equivalent to Courier, Times New Roman, or Arial.
  • 2.106: Color of Print: The color of print must be black or blue-black.  (bloggers note: Do NOT use blue ink - ever.  ALWAYS use BLACK ink).
  • 2.107: Margins: The left margin of each page must be at least one inch from the left edge of the paper and at least 1/2 inch from the right.
  • 2.108: Spacing and numbering lines: The lines on each page must be one and one-half or double-spaced (most everyone uses double space).
  • 2.109: Page numbering: Each page must be numbered consecutively at the bottom.
  • 2.118(a): Acceptance of papers for filing: The court must not accept for filing any papers that (1) is handwritten or hand-printed, (2) hand written in a color other than black or blue-black.
And that is only 9 of the rules associated with the Rules of Court.  As a filer of legal documents in either a civil or criminal proceed, you are expected to know the law and that means knowing how to properly dress your legal documents.  Still unclear on the subject?  Head on over to your local county law library and we'll point you in the right direction.