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Paperless lawyering

Some federal appeals judges now read briefs electronically on iPads

By June 14, 2014June 6th, 2022No Comments

As reported by a blog about the U.S. Fifth Circuit, the appeals judges in that court can now read attorneys’ briefs on their iPads.

Those briefs all contain hyperlinks to: (1) caselaw and statutes, and (2) any part of the record below. The burden of creating those hyperlinked briefs is not placed on the filing attorneys, which is usually how e-briefs get created.

The hyperlinks in the U.S. Fifth Circuit are created automatically using special software that the court’s staff developed. In fact, the court recently amended local rule 28.2.2 to impose strict standards on how record references are cited, which is what enables the software to perform its hyperlinking magic.

iPad app provides judges case information, including docket, pleadings, and record on appeal. Information stored locally on iPad so judge can work even if not connected to the Internet. Of course, the judges can also view the electronic brief on their computer if they want.

The implications of the judges having hyperlinked briefs in every case are interesting. Even though the judges still get paper briefs as well, many are using their iPads to read briefs when preparing for oral argument.

Why should attorneys care if judges have this technology?

In June of 2014, The Clerk of the Fifth Circuit, Lyle Cayce, did a slideshow presentation and explained why. The main reason is this: it’s much easier now for a judge reviewing the electronic copy of a brief to verify the accuracy of a case cite or reference to the record. It takes no more than a mouse click or a finger tap.

So attorneys who miscite a case can be assured that their failure will be quickly discovered. Same goes for mischaracterizing the record. Therefore, Mr. Cayce recommends that attorneys carefully prepare their case cites and record cites from now on.

I wonder how long it will be before this technology becomes the norm in all federal appellate courts. And will the software be able to be modified to allow something similar to happen in district courts?

Judges who become familiar with e-briefs tend to become enamored, and push for them to become more widely used. If you want to watch

However it happens, it’s clear that courts are decreasing their reliance on paper and finding clever new ways to be more efficient with digital information.

To find out more about why judges love ebriefs, and how they’re created, check out this short video with an expert who creates ebriefs for lawyers for a living.

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