North Carolina Business Litigation Report

A Few Things To Avoid When Filing A Brief In The Middle District Of North Carolina

United States District Court Judge Catherine Eagles of the Middle District of North Carolina delivered an admonition last week to all of the lawyers with cases in her Court.

You can read the "text order" here, but she said it was prompted by a recent "rash of briefs"  that were out of compliance with the M.D.N.C.'s Local Rules.  The Order was entered in "most of the Court's pending civil cases,"  even those in which offending briefs had not been filed.

She said that the Order was being entered "to assist counsel in avoiding future problems."

Examples of Local Rule requirements that she indicated are mandatory were:

spacing, margin, and font constraints [and] excessive or inappropriate use of footnotes designed to avoid page limits will not be allowed.

If you are not familiar with the Court's "spacing, margin, and font constraints," they are contained in Local Rule 7.1:

The margin at the top of each page shall not be less than one and one-quarter inches, and bottom, left and right margins shall be set at not less than one inch. Typewritten documents shall be double spaced.

All pleadings, motions and other original papers filed with the Clerk shall be in a
fixed-pitch type size no smaller than ten characters per inch or in a proportional font size no smaller than 13 point. There shall be no more than 27 lines of regularly spaced text on a page.

But there's more to this message than font size and page layout.  Judge Eagles continued by making the obvious points that:

legal arguments require citation to legal authority, and factual assertions unsupported by citations pointing to specific, authenticated facts existing in the record will be disregarded.

She warned that of "particular concern":

are summary judgment briefs which fail to provide cites to the record for factual assertions. L.R. 56.1(d); see also L.R. 7.2(a)(2). Litigants must include such citations, and the citations must be specific. It is not sufficient, for example, to cite a fifty-page exhibit for a particular point, but yet to fail to identify where within that fifty-page document the evidence for that point is located. As a reminder, the Court is under no duty to scour the record to find support for a party's factual assertions.

The Court, said Judge Eagles, is not under the obligation to "do legal research for parties who make perfunctory arguments without citation to legal authority. "

And this is not the first time that lawyers have been chided by the Court for not providing pinpoint citations to the evidence before the Court and support for the positions being taken.  Judge Eagles cited some of these cases in her text order.

For example, Judge Schroeder said in Stephenson v. Pfizer, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124737 (M.D.N.C. 2014)  that:

Throughout her briefing, [the plaintiff] fails to provide any pinpoint citation to a particular page or paragraph, providing instead only cites to whole documents generally. This practice violates Local Rule 7.2(a)(2), substantially burdens the court with the obligation of investigating the basis of claimed facts — a task the court need not do, and renders a party’s position subject to rejection on this basis alone.

*1 at n.1.

And how about failing to cite authority to support your argument?  Also a bad thing, as observed by Judge Eagles in Hayes v. Self Help Credit Union, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116888 (M.D.N.C. 2014):

the plaintiff has made numerous arguments as to which she has cited no legal authority of any kind.  It is not the role or the responsibility of the Court to undertake the legal research needed to support or rebut a perfunctory argument.

*2.

 And to the same effect is Judge Schroeder's statement in Hughes v. B/E Aerospace:

A substantial portion of Hughes' factual briefing fails to cite to the record, in violation of Local Rule 7.2(a)(2). A party should not expect a court to do the work that it elected not to do.

2014 WL 906220,  *1 & n.1 (M.D.N.C. 2014),

Consider yourself on notice of how to file a proper brief in the Middle District, even if you were not one of the many lawyers who received this text order.

[Disclosure: I am one of the members of the Local Rules Committee in the Middle District]

 

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Mack Sperling
Brooks Pierce, LLP
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