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THE DARK SIDE: 7th Circuit needs to enter the 20th Century

David Ziemer

David Ziemer

I arrived at work the other morning, all caffeinated and nicotined-up, excited about corrupting the youth of Milwaukee, the same as I do every other day.

But I got distracted from that very important work. There, sitting on my desk, was a memo. It was from the clerk of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The memo said the court is considering a proposed rule change regarding the filing of briefs.

Currently, when you file a brief with the court, you must do two things (at least as is relevant for this column): file 15 paper copies of the brief and provide an electronic version via floppy disk, a CD or online.

I read the proposed rule change several times, but I wasn’t sure what it meant. It could have meant either of the following: filing 15 paper copies was no longer required and you could file a brief entirely over the Internet; or the court would no longer accept floppy disks or CDs and filing online would be the only acceptable means of electronic filing.

Normally, at this point, I would explain to my younger readers what a floppy disk is. But I’m not going to do that, because nobody has used floppy disks for so long that it would be a waste of everybody’s time. You don’t need to know what it is.

Anyway, I was very excited. I was hoping the court was going to do away with filing paper copies altogether. Just the other day, a good friend complained to me about what a drag it was to drive down to the post office by the airport to get some briefs mailed before a midnight deadline.

So, I called the clerk of court’s office and spoke to a very nice young man who works there. I told him that I was not sure what the memo meant, and asked him which of the two interpretations was correct.

Unfortunately, he informed me it was the latter.

“Someday,” he said, “we’ll do away with paper copies, but not yet.”

So, here we are. A bunch of intelligent, educated lawyers living in the heart of western civilization in the year 2011, who still have to print, bind, and mail 15 paper copies to file a brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

I’m sorry, but where I come from, patience is not a virtue. Granted, where I come from, virtue is not a virtue.

But, “We’ll get there someday” is not good enough for me. It is time for us to drag the court system into the 21st Century, and I don’t care how much the system kicks and screams about it.

Comments to the proposed rule change can be submitted to the court by March 25. I’m sure they are not expecting any. Seriously, is some attorney going to write in to object, “I don’t have access to the Internet; please don’t take away my floppy disks.”

No, I’m sure they are not expecting any comments at all.

But I’ve got a comment for them, whether they want to hear it or not: I don’t want to file paper briefs at all. I don’t want to print, and bill my clients for, 15 copies of the brief. I don’t want to drive down to the airport post office to mail boxes of briefs. And neither do any of my friends.

I’m not whining here; I’m winning. The only question is when.


  1. Right. And so the cost of printing 15 copies at the court of appeals should be paid by who? Maybe just another fee?

    Do your work ahead of time with proper planning and you won’t have to drive the the airport.

  2. if the court actually uses all those paper copies, then i’m off-base. I just can’t imagine they still do that.

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