Sinclair v. Larson: Brevity Benchslap

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Sinclair v. Larson: Brevity Benchslap

Text of Sinclair v. Larson: Brevity Benchslap

  • DISTRICT COURT, WELD COUNTY, COLORADO 901 9th Avenue, P.O. Box 2038, Greeley, CO 80632 (970) 475-2400


    Plaintiff: Sinclair Transportation Company, d/ba/ Sinclair Pipeline Company v. Defendants: Ivar E. Larson; Donna M. Larson; Lauren Sandberg; and Kay F. Sandberg

    Case No. 2012 CV 907 Division 4

    Order on Sinclairs Motion to Set Emergency Hearing Regarding Briefing

    Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief.

    William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 2) I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

    Blaise Pascal, Lettres Provinciales (English tr.)

    Sinclair has filed several motions that fail to comply with this Courts page limitations. These limitations, which are based on C.R.C.P. 121, 1-15(1)(a), require a party to obtain permission before submitting motions or briefs in excess of ten pages. Sinclair has filed the following motions and brief in excess of ten pages:

    Plaintiffs C.R.C.P. 56(h) Motion for Determination of Question of Law, filed 12/14/15 (15 pages) (fully briefed and ripe for ruling)

    Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, filed 1/11/16 (17 pages)

    Motion to Exclude Expert Opinions of Robert Myers, filed 1/19/16 (21 pages)

    DATE FILED: January 28, 2016 12:00 PM CASE NUMBER: 2012CV907

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    Motion to Strike Expert Opinion of Ivar Larson, filed 1/19/16 (24 pages)

    Motion to Strike Expert Opinion of Ashley Ahrens, filed 1/19/16 (24 pages)

    Motion to Strike Expert Opinions of Charles Koch, filed 1/19/16 (19 pages)

    The Initial Case Management Order, entered in November 2012, put the parties on notice that they must first obtain permission from the Court to exceed the ten-page limitationor face the consequences. Because the parties elected not to put this page-limitation provision in their Stipulated Case Management Order, which I approved in July 2015, Sinclair takes the position that it is no longer bound by page limitations.

    Au contraire. I was not asked to relieve the parties of the page-limitation provision

    when I was asked to approve their Stipulated Case Management Order. Nor would I have done so if I were asked. Slipping something that the judge has not actually ordered into a proposed order is never a wise tactic. And not slipping something into a proposed orderso that a party can then argue that the court has acted by omissionis even less wise.

    So, to be clear, the ten-page limitation is alive and well in this case. Its purpose is to preserve the parties resources, by protecting them from being forced to respond to unnecessarily-long motions and briefs, and to preserve judicial resources so that I have the time to rule on the parties motions, plus time to rule on the pending motions in the over 300 other active cases I am currently responsible for.

    Thus, [e]nforcing page limits and other restrictions on litigants is rather ordinary practice, which is rather strictly, and cheerfully, enforced. Watts v. Thompson, 116 F.3d 220, 224 (7th Cir. 1997). Page limitations are

    designed as much for the benefit of the litigants as for the benefit of the court. If extra pages mean stronger argument,

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    enforcement of the page limit protects those who obey the rules. But extra pages may not be stronger argument. A limitation induces the advocate to write tight prose, which helps his [or her] clients cause.

    Morgan v. South Bend Community School Corp., 797 F.2d 471, 480481 (7th Cir.1986) (Easterbrook, J,).

    For these reasons, I rarely grant permission to exceed page limitations. Brevity is an essential part of the art of advocacy, see, e.g, People v. Galimanis, 728 P.2d 761 (Colo. App. 1986), as is the winnowing of issues and argument, see, e.g., Fleming v. County of Kane, State of Ill., 855 F.2d 496 (7th Cir. 1988). Overly long briefs may actually hurt a partys case, making it far more likely that meritorious arguments will be lost amid the mass of detail. United States v. Keplinger, 776 F.2d 678, 683 fn. 1 (7th Cir. 1985).

    I sometimes try to imagine what the lawyers are thinking when they submit a 20-page brief seeking relief on a single issue. Do they think that their clients will be impressed? In my experience, clients are only impressed when the judge rules in their favor. And I can say with certainly that I am not impressed by a long motion or brief. My reaction instead tends to be that the lawyer must not have a very strong argument if takes that many pages to get to the point. Strong arguments get to the point concisely and do not waste my time with unnecessary facts and legal fluff. If lawyers think that they must submit long motions and briefs to preserve the record for the Court of Appeals, then they should acquaint themselves with how that court enforces page limitations.

    Should there be any doubt about just how long courts have enforced page limitations and just how upset they can become when the limitations are ignored, I offer this ancient example. Over 400 hundred years ago, an English court imprisoned the pleader of a 120page replication. See Mylward v. Weldon, (1596) (first reported in 1 G. Spence, Equitable

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    Jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery 375 n.h (Philadelphia, Lea & Blanchard 1846). In addition, it ordered the prison warden to:

    cut a hole in the midst of the same engrossed Replication and put the said [pleaders] head through the same hole, and so let the same Replication hang about his shoulder with the written side outward.

    Id. The warden was then to:

    lead the said [pleader] bareheaded and barefaced round about Westminster Hall, whilst the Courts are sitting, and show him at the Bar of every of the three Courts within the Hall.

    Id. I do not often wax nostalgic for the rigors of the common law. But, then

    again, sometimes I do. In any event, Sinclair has inundated this Court with 120 combined

    pages between all its recent motions and briefs. Assuming that the defendants are feeling insecure about their positions, they will likely feel compelled to retaliate in kind. And then Sinclair will submit equally verbose replies. So I face the prospect of wading through nearly 400 pages in an attempt to identify the pertinent facts and law which should control my rulings. This I will not do.

    So I enforce the page limitations and strike all of Sinclairs papers, with the exception of the Motion for Determination of Question of Law, filed 12/14/15. Because that motion is now fully briefed, it would be waste of all the parties resources to strike it. But the remaining motions and briefs identified above are hereby STRUCK.

    I am somewhat sympathetic to Sinclairs argument that many of its papers comply in spirit with the page limitations because it submitted double-spaced motions and briefs. And certainly the page limitations provide for ten pages of single-spaced text (so long as proper fonts and page

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    margins are used). But some of Sinclairs papers are overly long, even if I consider the double-spacing. And my hope is that Sinclair will use this opportunity to winnow down the facts and legal arguments that I truly need to be informed about so that I can efficiently rule on the issues it seeks to raise.

    I therefore give Sinclair permission to refile the motions and brief I have struck. Recognizing that trial is fast-approaching, Sinclair must refile any motion or brief by no later than February 2. The defendants need not respond to any motion or brief that has been struck.

    But I also recognize that the defendants have already had an opportunity to consider the issues raised by Sinclair. I therefore exercise my discretion under C.R.C.P. 121, 1-15(1), to shorten the defendants response time. Any response to the refiled motion or brief must therefore be filed no later than February 8. Any reply by Sinclair must be filed by no later than February 11. I will then do my best to rule on all pending issues before the trial begins.

    Given my resolution of Sinclairs motion, I deny the request for an emergency hearing.

    So Ordered: January 28, 2016

    BY THE COURT: ______________________ Todd Taylor District Court Judge