News & Politics

DC Court: Stop Using Garamond!

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit says the font is small and difficult to read in briefs.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit released a statement this week that discourages the use of the Garamond typeface in legal briefs. “The court has determined that certain typefaces, such as Century and Times New Roman, are more legible than others, particularly Garamond, which appears smaller than the other two typefaces,” it reads. “Today the court announces a revision to the Circuit’s Handbook of Practice and Internal Procedures to encourage the use of typefaces that are easier to read and to discourage use of Garamond.”

Consider the gauntlet thrown down. The font, often described as elegant and traditional, dates back to the 16th century. Created by French engraver Claude Garamond, the typeface is still popular today: You can find it in Neutrogena’s logo, Harry Potter books, and the Hunger Games series. In 2014, one Pennsylvania student proposed the font as a cost-saving, printer-efficient typeface that could save the government some $400 million in printing costs.

So what gives? The court says Garamond is “more difficult to read” than fonts in the Times and Century families. (Tell that to the millions of Potterhead nerds.) DC isn’t alone in its assessment that Garamond isn’t best; brief fonts are frequently a question. Five years ago, Virginia’s Supreme Court expanded its list of expanded fonts from three options (Arial, Courier, Verdana) to 16 typefaces including Tahoma, Palatino Linotype, and Constantia. No Garamond, though. In Maryland’s Court of Appeals, there are 12 approved fonts with Antique Olive, Bookman Old Style, MS LineDraw—no Garamond, though the court specifies: “This list is provided for your guidance — these fonts are suggested, not mandatory.” Are there any brave Garamond enthusiasts willing to test it out?

Unlike Maryland and Virginia, which aren’t explicitly stating their displeasure with the French font, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit is singling out Garamond as a source of particular angst. Who hurt them?

Correction: A previous version of this article stated the DC Court of Appeals issued the statement. That was incorrect, it was the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

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Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.