The Slatest

BP Pulls Old College Trick, Fiddles With Line Spacing to Beat Court Filing Page Limit

A Greenpeace poster displaying a leaking oil logo.

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled BP was not only negligent, but reckless in its operations that led to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. On Monday, the very same judge issued another order to BP and its legal team—grow up.

It’s an unusual reprimand, but perhaps an appropriate one, as BP in a recent court filing attempted to get around a court-imposed page limit on the length of the filing by giving it the old college try—fiddling with the spacing between lines to squeeze in what amounted to six extra pages.

It’s an odd approach when trying to prove yourself un-reckless. And District Court Judge Carl Barbier was unimpressed with having to play TA. “Finally, the Court must address the format of BP’s opposition memorandum,” Barbier concluded in his court order on Monday. Here’s more of what he had to say:

BP’s counsel filed a brief that, at first blush, appeared just within the 35-page limit. A closer study reveals that BP’s counsel abused the page limit by reducing the line spacing to slightly less than double-spaced. As a result, BP exceeded the (already enlarged) page limit by roughly 6 pages. The Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules—particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. Counsel are expected to follow the Court’s orders both in letter and in spirit. The Court should not have to resort to imposing character limits, etc., to ensure compliance. Counsel’s tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here. Any future briefs using similar tactics will be struck.