This post was prepared by Brian E. O’Neill, Esq. of Eckert Seamans.

The Court of Chancery recently announced an amendment to Court of Chancery Rule 171, to take effect on August 1, 2017, regarding word limits to motions and letters to the Court and the requisite certificate of compliance. The word limitations applicable to motions filed pursuant to Rules 12, 23, 23.1, 56 and 65 and to pre-trial and post-trial briefs are the same as exist in current Rule 171.  The amended Rule 171 will require opening briefs for motions filed pursuant to Rules 12, 23, 23.1, 56 or 65 and opening pre-trial or post-trial briefs not to exceed 14,000 words.  The answering brief filed shall also not exceed 14,000 words.  The reply brief shall not exceed 8,000 words.

The principal difference articulated in amended Rule 171 is that “[a]ll other applications [other than pursuant to Rules 12, 23, 23.1, 56 and 65 and pre-trial and post-trial briefs] shall be made by motion without a supporting brief” and shall be limited to 3,000 words or less. The opposition to such motions shall not exceed 3,000 words and the reply shall not exceed 2,000 words.

The Court of Chancery is curtailing the verbiage permitted for the many types of motions which are not governed by Rules 12, 23, 23.1, 56 or 65, such as: motions in limine; motions to compel; motions for certification of interlocutory appeals; motions for leave to amend pleadings; motions to intervene; and motions for new trial. As practitioners are aware, the categories of motions governed by the more limited word count often involve complex legal issues and are often submitted in full-brief format in current practice.  Starting August 1, 2017, brevity will become mandated for these types of motions.

Amended Rule 171 also limits letters to the Court to 1,000 words, and states that such letters should be used for “logistical and scheduling issues” and not for substantive relief.

Amended Rule 171 also will require the word count to be stated in the signature block of the filed document governed by Rule 171(f). This requirement presumably is intended to eliminate the situation where one attorney signs the brief and another person signs the certificate of compliance.  Under the new Rule 171, the signatory(ies) of the brief will also be certifying the word count compliance statement.