D.C. judge scolds Meta lawyers for brief with 'excessive footnotes'

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The logo of Meta Platforms is seen in Davos, Switzerland, May 22, 2022. Picture taken May 22, 2022. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

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  • A filing from Meta lawyers in antitrust litigation included 19 footnotes, the longest of which was over 150 words
  • The judge said Kellogg Hansen lawyers violated a local rule against "excessive footnotes"

(Reuters) - A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ordered attorneys for Meta Platforms on Friday to refile a brief after he found they violated a court rule against "excessive footnotes."

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, who has a track record of enforcing the rule, chided the lawyers from Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick.

They are representing Meta, formerly Facebook Inc., in an antitrust lawsuit filed against the tech company by the Federal Trade Commission.

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They had filed a brief in Boasberg's court on Thursday that included 19 footnotes, the longest of which was over 150 words. The judge said the filing appeared to be an "effort to circumvent page limits."

The Kellogg Hansen lawyers quickly filed a new version of the brief on Friday that contained no footnotes. Mark Hansen, an attorney with the firm who signed the brief, did not immediately return a request for comment.

The D.C. federal court's rule, which was adopted in 2017, states that footnotes in pleadings "shall not be excessive."

The FTC is asking the court to demand that Meta sell Instagram and WhatsApp.

Meta's latest motion requests that the FTC share which activities available to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp users fall within the commission's definition of "personal social networking services."

Boasberg has previously enforced the footnotes rule in his court. In 2020, he ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to refile a reply brief in a case over the State Department's record collection policies after the initial pleading included 12 footnotes with 80 lines of text.

Earlier that year, he threw out a brief by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe attorneys in litigation over the Dakota Access Pipeline for also violating the rule. Boasberg issued a similar order in response to a filing submitted by the Consumer Energy Alliance in the same case.

The case is Federal Trade Commission v. Meta Platforms, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 20-cv-3590.

For the plaintiffs: Daniel Matheson of the Federal Trade Commission

For the defendants: Mark Hansen of Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick

Read more:

U.S. judge rejects Facebook request to dismiss FTC antitrust lawsuit

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Jacqueline Thomsen, based in Washington, D.C., covers legal news related to policy, the courts and the legal profession. Follow her on Twitter at @jacq_thomsen and email her at jacqueline.thomsen@thomsonreuters.com.