Appellate Court E-Filing on the Horizon
On Oct. 28, 2008, the Wisconsin
Supreme Court will hold a public hearing on rule amendments introducing
electronic filing in the state appellate courts. If, as anticipated, the
rules are adopted, they will be effective July 1, 2009, although the
appellate e-filing system will be available for attorneys’
voluntary use in early 2009.
by David R. Schanker
Electronic filing CONTINUES TO TAKE HOLD in Wisconsin’s state
and federal courts. In January 2008, the U.S. District Court for the
Western District of Wisconsin became the last federal district court in
the nation to implement electronic filing. In April, the Wisconsin
Supreme Court approved the adoption of a new rule, effective July 1,
2008, governing the use of e-filing in Wisconsin’s circuit courts.
In June, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals filed petition 08-15 with the
supreme court requesting adoption of a new rule requiring attorneys to
file an electronic copy of all appellate briefs and no-merit reports.
And on July 14, 2008, the Clerk of the Supreme Court filed petition
08-18 asking the supreme court for a companion rule requiring an
electronic copy of petitions for review and responses.
(Editor’s Note: Orders for petitions 08-15 and 08-18
appear in the Supreme Court Orders section of this issue of
This explosion of activity is the culmination of many years’
preparation. In Wisconsin’s state courts, the foundation was laid
by the Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP), which has created
a highly functional, easy-to-use, Web-based e-filing system. The system,
which has been successfully tested for two years in a pilot project in
Washington and Kenosha counties, includes interfaces for filers, court
employees, and judges. Filers register with the system and receive a
unique user identification and personal identification number (PIN) for
logging in. Once registered, attorneys and pro se litigants can initiate
cases electronically, pay filing fees, file documents, and serve
documents on other parties. The system automatically updates the case
record and associates filed documents with the circuit court case
management system. (For more information about the CCAP Web-based
system, please see “Paperless Courts: E-Filing in Wisconsin
Circuit Courts” in the July 2008
E-filing in Wisconsin appellate courts. The same
system will be used for appellate e-filing, although its functionality
will be limited to briefs, no-merit reports, petitions for review, and
appendices. Appellate filing fees will not be accepted electronically,
and the appellate courts will not issue orders electronically. The
proposed appellate e-filing rules contemplate a small step toward
appellate e-filing – not full-blown e-filing – and the new rules, if
adopted, will not eliminate the requirement that paper copies be filed.
The required electronic copy will be in addition to the paper
copies currently required under the appellate rules.
Under the proposed rules, the filing of an electronic brief, no-merit
report, or petition for review will be mandatory for lawyers and
optional for self-represented parties. E-filed documents will be
available online to judges, court staff, and the lawyers or pro se
litigants in the case but will not be electronically accessible by the
public. All filed materials (unless confidential or sealed) will be
available to the public at the clerk’s office in the usual
The proposed rules set forth several requirements for electronic
briefs, petitions for review, and no-merit reports. First, the
electronic versions must be in text-searchable portable document format
(PDF). A text-searchable PDF document is converted directly from
Word™ or WordPerfect™ instead of being scanned. Some
versions of Word and WordPerfect include a conversion feature.
Otherwise, Adobe Acrobat™ software can be used, as can other free
or inexpensive conversion options. Second, the brief must not include
the appendix. Third, the electronic brief must be filed on or before the
date the paper copies are filed. Fourth, the brief will be required to
contain a certification that the text of the brief’s electronic
version is identical to that of the paper version.
Under the proposed rule, the filing of an electronic version of the
appendix is permitted but not mandatory. The requirements for appendices
will be slightly different from those for briefs. First, an electronic
copy of an appendix must be a PDF image document, which means it is
scanned into PDF rather than converted. Second, it cannot be part of the
same electronic document as the brief (for the paper copies, filers must
continue to bind the brief and appendix together unless the appendix is
particularly large). Third, if the appendix is longer than 250 pages,
the electronic version should be split into smaller documents. Fourth,
the electronic appendix, like the brief, must be filed on or before the
date the paper copies are filed. Fifth, filers must include a
certification that the content of the electronic appendix is identical
to the content of the paper appendix. The proposed rule provides sample
The benefits of this project are at least three-fold. First, access
to electronic briefs will help appellate judges and court staff do their
jobs more efficiently. Second, it’s a small step toward e-filing
that will smooth the way toward full e-filing on the appellate level .
Third, it presents filers with the option of filing briefs enhanced with
internal and external links to cases or statutes cited in the brief.
Public hearing on Oct. 28, 2008. At the Oct. 28
public hearing, the court of appeals and the clerk’s office will
ask the supreme court for an effective date of July 1, 2009, for the
proposed rules, although it is expected that the system will be up and
running before then. The petitioners hope that lawyers will begin using
the system on a voluntary basis early in 2009.
The clerk’s office looks forward to working with the bar to
accomplish this initial step toward appellate e-filing.