Helping Trial Lawyers Navigate the Appellate System

Are Lawyer-Hyperlinked Briefs Headed for Extinction?

[vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” column_margin=”default” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom” bg_image_animation=”none”][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_link_target=”_self” column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_width_inherit=”default” tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” overlay_strength=”0.3″ column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid” bg_image_animation=”none”][vc_column_text]When used appropriately, hyperlinks to specific portions of the record or to on-point authorities can be a very effective tool in the appellate lawyer’s arsenal. But are recent developments enhancing that tool or effectively taking it away?

Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit standardized the format for citing electronic official records. In such cases, the parties are to “cite the short citation form, “ROA,” followed by a period, followed by the page number. For example, “ROA.123.” 5th Cir. R. 28.2.2. The Fifth Circuit made this change largely because it had acquired the ability to generate hyperlinks to the record when uniformly cited, thereby allowing judges to jump to pages they (rather than the advocates) may find important.

Texas appellate courts aren’t far behind. According to a recent report to the Texas Judicial Council, the Fifth Circuit has inspired upcoming enhancements to the Texas Appeals Management and E-filing System (TAMES) that will include automatic linking to record citations. As an additional step, TAMES will “take a properly formatted cite and automatically link it to the case in Westlaw or LexisNexis.”

These developments flow from increased use of technology in processing appellate cases, as well as higher numbers of appellate judges who consume briefs electronically, i.e. on a large monitor or on an iPad. The flexibility and efficiency that goes along with screen reading is generally a good thing—it’s difficult to argue against giving judges the ability to easily pull up any case or record cite they choose when reviewing a party’s brief. And, standardizing record and case cites should level the playing field between the technology haves and have-nots. From the advocate’s perspective, though, hyperlinking everything will make it more challenging to set critical cases or key portions of the record apart.


D. Todd Smith
About the Author

D. Todd Smith is an Austin-based civil appellate specialist who works with trial teams from the earliest stages of litigation. In trial courts, he takes the lead on strategic analysis and briefing, jury charges, and potentially dispositive motions, all with a focus on preserving error and positioning cases for appellate review.

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