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Attorneys, judges, CCAP eager for Supreme Court to approve mandatory appellate e-filing rule

Attorneys, judges and CCAP staff called on Wednesday for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to approve mandatory electronic filing in the state’s Courts of Appeals.

Marcia Vandercook, member of the appellate e-filing committee, testifies in favor of implementing mandatory e-filing in the Wisconsin Courts of Appeals.

Marcia Vandercook, member of the appellate e-filing committee, testifies in favor of implementing mandatory e-filing in the Wisconsin Courts of Appeals.

The state Supreme Court held a public hearing Wednesday on Rule Petition 20-07, which asks the high court to approve mandatory e-filing in the appellate courts and amend the rules as needed to have the system in place. The proposed start date is July 1.

In 2019, CCAP began working with the Courts of Appeals and state Supreme Court on an e-filing pilot project. The purpose was to set up a comprehensive filing system similar to what’s used in the circuit courts. Attorneys have been required to file everything electronically in the lower courts since 2016. The Courts of Appeals have been accepting electronic briefs and appendices since 2009.

The clerk’s office rolled out voluntary participation for the four appellate courts in the state beginning in August, and the appellate system now accepts electronic filings for any matter.

“This process worked well for circuit-court filing, and we think it will work well for appellate filing, too,” said Marcia Vandercook, a member of the appellate e-filing committee, during Wednesday’s hearing.

District III Deputy Chief Judge Lisa Stark shares how appellate judges are using the e-filing system.

During Wednesday’s virtual hearing, District III Deputy Chief Judge Lisa Stark shares how appellate judges are using the e-filing system.

District III Deputy Chief Judge Lisa Stark described the system as well-used and accepted by judges. She said they haven’t had any major concerns or missing filings, and CCAP staff has been very helpful in designing a program that meets their needs and reflects their workflows.

“This has been terrific,” Stark said. “It has not affected the ability of my colleagues to do their work.”

She estimated that about a third of judges are working entirely electronically, a third are still using paper and a third are doing a mix of both.

James Goldschmidt, attorney at Quarles & Brady and chair-elect of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s appellate practice section, said the section has strong support for the rule petition. He said members heard from appellate practitioners from around the state who are in support of e-filing.

James Goldschmidt, , says appellate practitioners are in favor of making e-filing mandatory for Courts of Appeals.

James Goldschmidt, chair-elect of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s appellate practice section, says appellate practitioners are in favor of making e-filing mandatory for Courts of Appeals.

“In fact, we would respectfully say it’s about time,” Goldschmidt said.

The section heard some concerns about educating appellate practitioners about the new process. Goldschmidt said there have been conversations with CCAP about education for attorneys, and a continuing legal education program before the July 1 start date is one option being considered.

The state Supreme Court justices asked questions about how e-filing and the judicial dashboard would function for them. Jean M. Bousquet, CCAP’s chief information officer, said CCAP would work closely with the justices to ensure the dashboard shows what they need.

“You tell us how you work and what works best for you,” Bousquet said. “We plan to be very collaborative. We’ll keep coming around until you tell us, ‘We got it. Go away.'”

Jean Bousquet, CCAP's chief information officer, demonstrates how judges can use e-readers for annotating.

Jean Bousquet, CCAP’s chief information officer, demonstrates how judges can use e-readers for annotating.

Bousquet said CCAP purchased paper-sized e-readers and styluses for judges to mimic the experience of reading and notating on paper. The notes are saved and can be accessed from the reader or a computer.

“The experience of pen-to-paper with these devices is very close, so we think judges and justices will find these useful tools,” Bousquet said.

Vandercook said the proposed rule gives the state Supreme Court the ability to set its own rollout date for mandatory e-filing. The July 1 date would only apply to the appellate courts, but the state Supreme Court could aim for the same launch date if the justices are ready.

The state Supreme Court met in closed conference following the hearing and will release its decision at a later date. A recording of the public hearing is available via WisconsinEye.


About Michaela Paukner, mpaukner@wislawjournal.com

Michaela Paukner is the legal reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal. She can be reached at (414) 225-1825 or by email at mpaukner@wislawjournal.com.

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