Judge Calls Out BP Lawyers For Using Trickery

NPR reported that the judge in a case related to the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was not amused when the BP lawyers manipulated the spacing in a brief to comply with the page limit.

"Back in school, did you ever fudge the spacing on a report to meet the teacher's page-length requirement? Lawyers representing oil company BP tried something similar in a recent court filing connected to the company's 2010 drilling rig accident and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."

Judge Barbier reprimanded the lawyers for the tactic. "BP's counsel filed a brief that, at first blush, appeared just within the 35-page limit. A closer study reveals that BP's counsel abused the page limit by reducing the line spacing to slightly less than double-spaced. As a result, BP exceeded the (already enlarged) page limit by roughly six pages. The Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules — particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. ... Counsel's tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here."

As one of Judge Barbier's former clerks mentioned, "[t]he subtext seems to be Judge Barbier saying, 'Look, every time I give you an inch you take a mile, and I'm tired of it.' BP is lucky because some judges would have stricken the entire brief for not following the rules."

This is a good lesson for any future attorney. Judges are savvy enough to know when a brief has been manipulated. If a judge has been on the bench long enough, he or she has probably seen lawyers try every trick in the book to comply with a page limit, including changing font or spacing. It's just not worth it to upset judges over something as silly as spacing in a brief.


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