Thursday, February 6, 2014

Legal Paper Size is ... Illegal. Foolscap!

Today, for the first time, my complaint was not accepted for filing because some of the pages were presented on legal size paper. The lease was printed on an old "long" form, requiring the legal size, and, while I used to have those exhibits successfully filed before, my luck ended today. The reason is not even a law, but the technology: I was told that the scanning company complains about the legal size, so all non-letter sized papers are now prohibited, in order not to upset the scanners. There you have it, the paper size called "legal" is not legal after all. I made a new copy of the long pages, reducing them to 8.5" x 11," and the filing went through, but, while I waited in line, I tried to look the subject up, and here are my findings.

No one knows for sure, why the 8.5" x 14" size is called "legal." Two theories are mainly retold on the Internet: one maintains that it was invented in Milwaukee, following a judge's request, and one that it was almost randomly picked at some early 20th century convention, loosely arriving from a medieval foolscap format, often used for official or "legal" purposes.

And it appears that no one knows if 8.5" x 14" paper is really prohibited in the California state courts. I did find one reference in the California Rules of Court instructing that only 8.5" x 11" paper is acceptable. Rule 2.103.  But, I also noted that another rule from the same "Title Two" group of rules, Rule 2.3, specifically exempts exhibits from its "paper" definition. (My long pages were for the exhibit, a copy of the lease). Perhaps, due to its transition to e-filing, the court is now more concerned with what is scannable, than what is permissible.

While I was revisiting the Rules, I also noticed that the Rule 1.22 was now repealed, effective January 2014. The Rule was mandating use of recycled paper, and its repeal was an unexpected change in policies for such an environmentally aware state as ours. I was able to find an explanation, no lesser surprising: the studies were telling that, at the retail level, recycle paper is more expensive than the raw! So now we can all get back to filing on paper straight from the trees. Just keep an eye on the paper's size!

In all fairness, I should say that the San Francisco Superior Court is not the only one with peculiar rules. It could be even that SF has the least of it. For comparison, consider this practice from the Santa Barbara's court: if you file by mail, and send to a clerk an original set along with a "chamber's copy" to be given to a judge, they will return by mail your chamber's copy, instructing to fax it back to them, along with your credit card information*, so that you can be charged for each printed page. I thought, don't they already have it printed and in their hands, yet they spend on an envelope and postage expense, and put that budget-paid man-hours effort to mail it back to me, so that I can send it back once more. It still looks strange even if we were to forget about the money, as the practice makes us to waste about a week of extra time, deliberately keeping court's own judges unawares of what was filed. I was lucky to learn this local practice on non-urgent filing.

* It is in Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 2.304, to allow courts to ask for the credit card information to be stated on the fax's cover page. When was the last time you sent your full credit card info via fax, to some entirely unknown and untraceable clerk-employee, together with the authorization to charge the card, so that it will be then stored somewhere in the file, theoretically reviewable by anyone who requests it? And I am not even talking about a not-so-remote possibility of an accident when the cover page will be filed and scanned together with the rest of the papers. Looks like an invitation for identity theft to me.

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