What Font Does the Supreme Court Use?
The United States Supreme Court uses Century Schoolbook for its opinions and issues its orders in Lucida Sans Typewriter. Lawyers must submit briefs in a font “in the Century family.”
While the Court uses those two fonts specifically, its rules for lawyers submitting briefs are slightly more relaxed. Font guidelines are laid out in Supreme Court Rule 33.1, which states:
The text of every booklet-format document, including any appendix thereto, shall be typeset in Century family (e.g., Century Expanded, New Century Schoolbook, or Century Schoolbook) 12-point type with 2-point or more leading between lines.
Lawyers have the leeway to choose which font they use as long as it is within the Century family. This rule also sets word limits for the various types of Court briefs and establishes sizing and paper requirements.
Why Does the Supreme Court Use Century Schoolbook?
The Supreme Court likely uses Century Schoolbook because it is easy to read, formal-looking, and relatively common. Century Schoolbook was originally designed by Morris Fuller Benton in 1919 for use in school textbooks, hence the name. The functionality of a typeface intended for use in textbooks provides many of the same benefits to legal opinions and briefs. Century Schoolbook is not too light, not too heavy, not to thinly spaced, not too widely spaced. In essence, it is a Goldilocks font. The Supreme Court processes hundreds of thousands of words at a time and requires a font that makes reading and filing easier. Century Schoolbook is the perfect font for the highest court in the land.
Century Schoolbook is also widely recognized by many Americans as being the first font that they saw when learning to read.
Should I Write in Century Schoolbook?
Unless you plan on submitting legal documents to federal courts, your font choice will typically be exactly that: a choice. However, there are certainly benefits to writing in Century Schoolbook. It reads more easily, stands out from the page, and has an un-quantifiable sense of formality and assurance, likely acquired from its widespread use in court and on other official documents.