Future Effective Date
Rules of Appellate Procedure

Effective March 1, 2019

Rules of Appellate Procedure Appellate Procedure Rule 20: Form and length of briefs, appendices, and other documents

Effective Date: 03/01/2019
Updates: Amended effective February 24, 1975 Amended effective February 1, 1991
Amended effective January 1, 1992 Amended December 1, 1998, effective January 1, 1999 Amended March 5, 2010, effective May 1, 2010 Amended October 31, 2018, effective March 1, 2019, 481 Mass. 1601

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Table of Contents

(a) Form and length of briefs, appendices, and applications for and responses to direct and further appellate review

(1) Form 

Except on order of the appellate court or a single justice, or if filed on behalf of a party allowed to proceed as an indigent party, all briefs, appendices, and applications for and responses to direct and further appellate review shall be produced by any duplicating or copying process which produces a clear black image on white paper. However produced, the page shall be 8.5 inches in width and 11 inches in height. Pages shall be firmly bound at the left, and a cover or front page shall be used.

(2) Length of briefs in all cases other than cross appeals 

The following rules shall govern the length of briefs in all cases other than cross appeals:

(A) A principal brief shall either be produced in a monospaced font and not contain more than 50 pages, or be produced in a proportionally spaced font and not contain more than 11,000 words.

(B) A reply brief shall either be produced in a monospaced font and not contain more than 20 pages, or be produced in a proportionally spaced font and not contain more than 4,500 words.

(C) An amicus curiae brief shall either be produced in a monospaced font and not contain more than 35 pages, or be produced in a proportionally spaced font and not contain more than 7,500 words.

(D) In all briefs, only those parts required by Rule 16(a)(5)-(11), including headings, footnotes, and quotations, count towards the length limits.

(E) A motion to exceed these length limits shall specify the relevant issue or issues and why such issues merit additional pages or words, and will not be granted except for extraordinary reasons.

(F) The certification required pursuant to Rule 16(k) shall specifically state how compliance with the length limits of this rule was ascertained, as specified therein.

(3) Length of briefs in cases involving cross appeals 

The following rules shall govern the length of briefs in cases involving cross appeals:

(A) An appellant’s principal brief shall either be produced in a monospaced font and not contain more than 50 pages, or be produced in a proportionally spaced font and not contain more than 11,000 words.

(B) An appellee’s principal and response brief shall either be produced in a monospaced font and not contain more than 60 pages, or be produced in a proportionally spaced font and not contain more than 13,000 words.

(C) An appellant’s response and reply brief shall either be produced in a monospaced font and not contain more than 50 pages, or be produced in a proportionally spaced font and not contain more than 11,000 words.

(D) An appellee’s reply brief shall either be produced in a monospaced font and not contain more than 20 pages, or be produced in a proportionally spaced font and not contain more than 4,500 words.

(E) An amicus curiae brief shall either be produced in a monospaced font and not contain more than 35 pages, or be produced in a proportionally spaced font and not contain more than 7,500 words.

(F) In all briefs, only those parts required by Rule 16(a)(5)-(11), including headings, footnotes, and quotations, count towards the length limits.

(G) A motion to exceed these length limits shall specify the relevant issue or issues and why such issues merit additional pages or words, and will not be granted except for extraordinary reasons.

(H) The certification required pursuant to Rule 16(k) shall specifically state how compliance with the length limits of this rule was ascertained, as specified therein.

(4) Format and pagination of text 

The following rules shall govern the format of text on the pages of all briefs and applications for and responses to direct or further appellate review:

(A) If a monospaced font is used, the top and bottom margins shall be at least 1 inch. The left and right margins shall be at least 1.5 inches. If a proportionally spaced font is used, the top, bottom, left, and right margins shall be at least 1 inch. Page numbers shall appear in the margin with the cover paginated as page 1 pursuant to Rule 20(a)(6)(B)(vii) and pages thereafter numbered consecutively through the last page, including any addendum.

(B) The typeface of all text, including footnotes, shall be either (i) a monospaced font (such as Courier New) of 12 point or larger size and not exceeding 10.5 characters per inch; or (ii) a proportionally spaced font (such as Times New Roman) of 14 point or larger size. (C) Text shall be double-spaced, except that argument headings, footnotes, and indented quotations may be single-spaced. For purposes of this rule, single spacing means not more than 6 lines of text per vertical inch; double spacing means not more than 3 lines of text per vertical inch and not more than 27 double-spaced lines on a page.

(D) The text may appear on both sides of the page.

(5) Format, pagination, and length of appendix 

The following rules shall govern the format of appendices:

(A) The cover of each volume of the appendix shall be designated by a Roman numeral and paginated as page 1, and pages thereafter numbered consecutively through the volume’s last page. The cover shall also contain the information identified in Rule 20(a)(6)(B).

(B) Each volume of the appendix shall be separately paginated, beginning at page 1.

(C) No single volume of an appendix, transcript or exhibit shall be more than 1.5" thick.

(D) The text of appendices filed on paper may appear on both sides of the page.

(6) Color and contents of cover

The following rules shall govern the color and contents of the cover of all briefs, appendices, and applications for or responses to direct or further appellate review:

(A) Color. The cover of the brief of the appellant shall be blue; that of the appellee, red; that of a party intervening in the appeal, yellow; that of an amicus curiae, green; that of any reply brief, gray. The cover of the appendix shall be white. The cover or front page of an application for or response to direct or further appellate review shall be white. A color cover is not required for any electronically filed brief.

(B) Contents. The front covers of the briefs and appendices, in addition to the requirements for covers of appendices in Rule 20(a)(5), and of applications for or responses to direct or further appellate review shall contain:

(i) the name of the court and the number of the case;
(ii) the title of the case (see Rule 10(a));
(iii) the nature of the proceeding in the appellate court (e.g., Appeal; Application for Review) and the name of the lower court;
(iv) the title of the document (e.g., Brief for Appellant, Appendix);
(v) the name(s), Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) number(s), if any, mailing and electronic addresses, and telephone number(s) of the person(s) filing the document, and, if any individual counsel is affiliated with a firm or office, the office name; and
(vi) where it is necessary to include impounded material in a brief, the notification required by Rule 16(m).
(vii) The cover shall be paginated as page 1.

(7) Substantial compliance required 

Briefs, appendices, or applications for or responses to direct or further appellate review not in substantial compliance with these rules shall not be docketed unless the appellate court or a single justice shall otherwise order.

(b) Form of other documents

(1) Motions for reconsideration or modification

Motions for reconsideration or modification shall be produced in a manner prescribed by Rule 27(b).

(2) Motions and other documents

(A) A motion or other document addressed to an appellate court shall contain a caption setting forth the name of the court, the title of the case, the docket number, and a brief descriptive title indicating the purpose of the document; the caption shall appear on the first page. Lines of text shall be double-spaced and shall be in 12 point or larger font, with side and top margins no less than 1 inch, and shall be no longer than reasonably necessary. Consecutive pages shall be stapled at the upper left margin.

(B) Such motion or document shall contain, at the end thereof

(i) the printed and signed name(s), Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) number(s), if any, mailing and electronic addresses, and telephone number(s) of the person(s) filing the document, and, if any individual counsel is affiliated with a firm or office, the office name, and

(ii) the date of signing

Reporter's notes

(2019)

The title of Rule 20 was amended to indicate that it encompasses the length of the referenced appellate documents, as well as the form. In addition, prior Rule 20’s paragraphs were numbered, reordered, revised, and new paragraphs were added for clarity and ease of reference.

Rule 20(a). The title of this subdivision was amended to indicate that it applies both to the form and length of briefs, appendices, and applications for, and responses to, direct and further appellate review.

Rule 20(a)(1) addresses the form of briefs, appendices, and applications for, and responses to, direct and further appellate review. Reference to the format of appendices in the first paragraph of the prior rule was deleted and the content, with revisions, was relocated to Rule 20(a)(5).

Rules 20(a)(2) and 20(a)(3) are new paragraphs. Rule 20(a)(2) addresses the length of briefs in all cases other than cross appeals, and Rule 20(a)(3) establishes the length of briefs in cross appeals. These paragraphs allow the use of a word limit together with a proportionally spaced font, as an alternative to a page limit, in setting the permissible lengths of principal and reply briefs. The word limits are not intended to allow for longer documents. The limits allow no more than the amount of text permitted under the prior rules. For a comprehensive discussion of the word count amendment, see the 2019 Reporter’s Notes to Rule 1.

Rule 20(a)(4). The content from the second paragraph of prior Rule 20(a) concerning the format of text on the pages of the documents encompassed in the rule was revised and relocated to Rule 20(a)(4). The revisions include the addition of applications for, and responses to, direct and further appellate review to clarify that the text requirements also apply to these documents. In addition, the rule was amended to include the word count alternative to the page limit.

Rule 20(a)(4)(A) provides that if a proportionally spaced font is used, all margins shall be at least one inch. This is intended to improve readability and is consistent with the analogous Federal rule. See Fed. R. App. P. 32(a)(4). The subparagraph retains the traditional 1.5 inch left and right margins from prior Rule 20(a)(1) only if a monospaced font is used.

Rule 20(a)(4)(A) also specifies the pagination requirements for briefs and applications for and responses to direct or further appellate review. The page numbers shall appear in the margin with the cover paginated as page one pursuant to Rule 20(a)(6)(B)(vii), and pages thereafter numbered consecutively through the last page. Any addendum is included in this requirement and should continue the pagination of the document itself without beginning again at page one. This provision is intended to facilitate reading documents in electronic form.

Rule 20(a)(5) is a new paragraph addressing the format and length of a record appendix. The rule requires that the cover of each volume of the appendix be designated by a Roman numeral, that each volume of the appendix be separately paginated with the cover designated as page 1, and that pages thereafter be numbered consecutively through the volume’s final page. This paragraph is intended to facilitate reading appendices in electronic form.

Rule 20(a)(6). The content from the final paragraph of prior Rule 20(a) was revised, relocated to Rule 20(a)(6), and separated into new subparagraphs. Rule 20(a)(6)(A) addresses the color of the cover of briefs, appendices, and applications for or responses to direct or further appellate review. Rule 20(a)(6)(B) specifies the contents of the cover of briefs and appendices.

Rule 20(a)(6)(A). The content of the prior rule was revised to change the color of the cover of a brief filed by a party intervening in the appeal from green to yellow. This is intended to prevent confusion with the color of a brief of an amicus curiae, which is required to be green. Text was also added to clarify that the cover to applications for, or responses to, direct or further appellate review are white. Finally, the phrase “if separately bound” was removed from the existing requirement that appendix covers be white because under Rule 18(a), as amended, all appendices must now be bound separately from the brief. Color requirements do not apply to electronically-filed briefs.

Rule 20(a)(6)(B). The requirements regarding the contents of the cover of these documents were revised. The word “e-mail address” was revised to “electronic address,” to clarify that both “mailing and electronic addresses” are required. Explicit reference to Rule 16(m) was added to ensure briefs referencing impounded material are clearly marked.

Rule 20(a)(7). The content from the first sentence of the third paragraph of prior Rule 20(a) was converted into new stand-alone Rule 20(a)(7). This amendment was made in order to separate the requirements for the form and length of briefs and appendices from the consequences should a brief or appendix not be in substantial compliance with Rule 20.

Prior Rule 20(b) was divided into two separate paragraphs. The first paragraph of prior Rule 20(b) is now Rule 20(b)(1). Reference to “[p]etitions for rehearing” was changed to “motion for reconsideration or modification,” consistent with revisions to Rule 27. See 2019 Reporter’s Notes to Rule 27. Language prescribing the form of a motion for reconsideration or modification was stricken and replaced with an explicit reference to Rule 27, which provides for the form of such a motion.

The remaining paragraphs of prior Rule 20(b) now encompass Rule 20(b)(2). Specifying in one paragraph the required structure for motions promotes clarity for parties submitting motions, and will promote a consistent format for review by the court. Rule 20(b)(2)(A) was added to specify basic formatting and length requirements of motions. There is no page limit for motions, but motions “shall be no longer than reasonably necessary.” In some circumstances, the appellate courts have specified page limits of a motion. See Appeals Court Standing Order Governing Motions to Stay a Judgment or Execution of Sentence Filed Pursuant to Mass. R.A.P. 6 (setting 5 page limit for motion and 15 page limit for supporting memorandum of law). Rule 20(b)(2)(B) includes language added to the requirements for the end of a motion included in the prior rule to specify that “address” includes both the electronic and mailing address of the party, and to require the inclusion of the date of signing.

Further organizational and stylistic revisions were made to this rule in 2019 in accordance with a global review and revision of all of the Appellate Rules. These revisions are described in the 2019 Reporter’s Notes to Rule 1.

With regard to the preparation of the 2019 Reporter’s Notes to this Rule, see the first paragraph of the 2019 Reporter’s Notes to Rule 1. For an overview of the 2019 amendments to the Rules and a summary of the global amendments to the Rules, see 2019 Reporter’s Notes to Rule 1, sections I. and II.

(2010) 

Rule 20(a)(4) has been amended to require attorneys to include their e-mail addresses, if any, on the front cover of briefs and appendices. A similar amendment to Mass. R. Civ. P. 11(a) was adopted in 2010 requiring attorneys to include their e-mail addresses on pleadings.

(1999) 

Appellate Rule 20(b), governing the form of papers other than briefs and appendices, has been amended to require that the cover of applications for direct appellate review (Rule 11) and for further appellate review (Rule 27.1) be white. This will allow the clerk’s office more easily to identify such documents.

(1999)

I. Introduction.

Since the adoption of the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure in 1974, there have been only a few changes to Appellate Rule 20. With the advances in computer technology that have ensued since the 1970s, the Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure of the Supreme Judicial Court agreed with the recommendation of the clerks of the Supreme Judicial Court and of the Appeals Court that the time had come to re-examine Appellate Rule 20.

II. Briefs.

A number of changes to the existing rule were made in recognition of the fact that briefs today are typically computer-generated, whether an attorney produces a brief in-house or utilizes the services of a commercial firm. For example, outmoded references in the first paragraph of Rule 20(a) such as “standard typographic printing” and “printed matter” have been deleted. The reference to carbon copies has also been deleted.

The 1999 amendment also addresses a problem that has developed in recent years in the appellate courts of the Commonwealth. Judges have commented that in some instances briefs have been difficult to read because of the small size of letters. In addition, today’s computer technology has provided opportunity for circumvention of the page limitations on briefs by compressing or condensing letters. If a brief is rejected by the clerk’s office for such reasons, frustration and the additional expense of producing a replacement brief result. See “Strict Rule on Briefs Frustrates Litigators,” 26 Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly 55 (September 15, 1997). A new second paragraph has been added to Rule 20(a) to address these and other matters of form.

It should be noted the existing page limitations on briefs produced by computer wordprocessing--as contained in Appellate Rule 16(h)--remain the same.

The following provisions numbered (1) through (4) are applicable to all briefs under the amended rule:

(1) Margins. Top and bottom margins on a page shall be at least one inch; left and right margins must be at least one and one-half inches. The rule specifically allows a page number to be placed within a margin. Uniformity in margins will also facilitate the placing of text on both sides of a page of a document, a practice permitted by Rule 20(a)(4).

(2) Typeface. Only a monospaced font is allowed. Therefore, attorneys may no longer use a proportional font such as Times New Roman. The typeface must be a 12 point or larger size and a limitation of 10.5 characters per inch is imposed. It should be noted that these limitations are applicable to footnotes as well as text. These requirements should eliminate the problem brief where page limitations have been circumvented by means of reducing, compressing, or condensing typeface.

Right margin justification (the process by which the lettering on a line is spaced so that the last letter on each line is flush to the right margin) is not prohibited by this rule, as long as the right margin is at least one and one-half inches and the limitation of 10.5 characters per inch is observed.

(3) Line Spacing. Documents are to be double-spaced. Argument headings, footnotes, and indented quotations, however, may be single-spaced. The revised rule defines the terms double-spaced and single-spaced--terms which may have been obvious in the context of a brief produced by a typewriter--so that there will be no more than three lines per vertical inch for double spacing and no more than six lines per vertical inch for single spacing (with an overall limit of 27 double-spaced lines on a page).

(4) Text May Appear on Both Sides. The prior version of Rule 20(a) did not speak to the issue of text appearing on both sides of a page. In recent years, some attorneys have begun to submit briefs where the text appears on the front and back of a page. The 1999 amendment specifically allows this practice. Although it is not required that text must appear on both sides of a page, attorneys are encouraged to produce briefs in this fashion. It is hoped that the practice of putting text on the front and back of a page will significantly reduce the storage problems in the clerks’ offices of the appellate courts by reducing the overall size of briefs.

Where counsel is unable to comply with the technical requirements of Rule 20, it would be advisable to move in the appellate court in advance for leave to file a non-conforming brief rather than risk rejection of the filing at a point where time deadlines may be about to expire.

III. Appendices.

The 1999 changes regarding briefs do not apply to the appendix. An appendix may contain existing documents, transcripts, and other matters that were not originally prepared by counsel. However, in an effort to help reduce the storage problems in the clerk’s offices of the appellate courts, a sentence has been added to Appellate Rule 20(a) allowing the text of the appendix to be reproduced on both sides of a page, a practice that is also allowed (and in fact, encouraged) for briefs.

(1991) 

Experience has shown that volumes of appendices that are more than one and a half inches thick often fall apart and are clumsy to use. The limitation of each individual volume of the appendix to a thickness no greater than one and a half inches should solve the problem. If the appendix is larger in size, multiple volumes should be used.

Mass.R.A.P. 16(a)(7) and 20(a), final sentence, clause (5):

These amendments require individual counsel who are affiliated with a firm to include the firm name on filed briefs. Appellate judges need to know the firm names in order to determine correctly whether it is necessary to withdraw from a case.

(1979) 

Subdivision (a) of Rule 20 was made applicable to criminal cases by former Appeals Court and Supreme Judicial Court Rules 1:14 (1975: 3 Mass.App.Ct. 803. 366 Mass. 860) and is unchanged.

(1975) 

The amendment to Appellate Rule 20(b) eliminates the requirement of “backing” the caption, so as to conform to the introduction of flat filing, see S.J.C. Rule 3:20.

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Updates: Amended effective February 24, 1975 Amended effective February 1, 1991
Amended effective January 1, 1992 Amended December 1, 1998, effective January 1, 1999 Amended March 5, 2010, effective May 1, 2010 Amended October 31, 2018, effective March 1, 2019, 481 Mass. 1601

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