Stick to MS Word for Court Filings - Words May Not Count As Much in Google Docs

Recently, attorneys who filed a complaint for an emergency injunction relief declaring that the Electoral Count Act was unconstitutional and that Vice President Michael Pence had the discretion to decide which electors for a state be counted suffered the minor embarrassment (in addition to the major embarrassment of being cowed by Donald Trump into making their request) of needing to request a deadline extension because of difficulties they encountered converting documents from Google Docs to MS Word. See an article about this mishap posted here.


As the article by Ed Bott [real name?] makes clear, using a word processor other than Microsoft Word can lead to formatting problems.


One possible complication not mentioned by Bott is that Google Docs and MS Word count words differently. Attorneys trying to file a version of a brief that comes in just under a word limit, might get one count in Google Docs and another in MS Word. See this example:





Google Docs counts 'his/her' as 2 words, but MS Word counts it as only 1 word. Different Word processing programs will use different rules to determine word breaks - based on spacing, punctuation, and other factors.


When the plain text of this amicus brief is pasted into Word, we get a count of 6,040 words.




Google Docs gives a count of 6060 words for the same text.





Several courts explicitly require that attorneys use MS Word.


The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California states on its site , http://www.caed.uscourts.gov/caednew/index.cfm/attorney-info/word-format/ , that it "is a Microsoft Word only court. All documents required to be submitted to the court in word processing format pursuant to Local Rules 137, 163 and 281 (proposed orders, jury instructions and pretrial statements) must be submitted in Word format (.docx)."


The site of the Wisconsin Court System in a section on document requirements instructs attorneys that "[a]ll documents should be submitted in PDF format unless they require editing by a court official. If the probability of editing exists, the document can be submitted in Microsoft Word 2007 or newer (.docx) format." See: https://www.wicourts.gov/ecourts/efilecircuit/tech.htm


For e-filings with the Supreme Court of Florida,"[a]ttorneys must submit briefs and petitions in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), in Microsoft Word 97 or higher format, or in WordPerfect format." https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/Practice-Procedures/About-E-Filing-Portal


The rules for the Hon. Lara J. Genovesi of the State of New York Supreme Court for Kings County specifically state that a proposed order for an unopposed motion be submitted in Microsoft Word format. See: http://ww2.nycourts.gov/courts/2jd/kings/civil/genovesirules.shtml









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