The post highlights the importance of digitally marking briefs and other court documents.
Judge Wesley wasn’t always this tech-savvy. In fact, he relied solely on pen and paper to get the job done until fairly recently. But, as he explains, when he encountered difficulties accessing information during an oral argument about 6 years ago, it was a turning point for him: “I’d prepared for oral arguments on a very big case by placing yellow post-its on the side of the brief. There was one particular issue I wanted to address with the attorneys, but during arguments I discovered that the notes had overlapped and my writing was poor, making it difficult to locate the note I was looking for. I came away very frustrated that I’d been unable to make use of my notes the way I’d wanted to and felt that my efforts didn’t reflect the work I’d put into the case.”
Afterward, he expressed his frustration to his law clerks. One of them introduced him to PDF documents and assured him that he could safely explore the process of working with PDFs without running the risk that he would damage or delete the document. “With that reassurance I began to fully work with PDF documents. It took me about 2 or 3 months before I decided I was ready to take my laptop onto the bench,” he admits. “And the first time I used my laptop during an argument, I closed a window and didn’t know how to get back to it quickly. But by the third time the confusion had gone away. I began to use my laptop exclusively and never used paper briefs again.”
As tablets become more prevalent, and e-filing becomes mandatory in more states, I expect many more judges to adopt digital as their modus operandi. The number of judges using digital methods to view documents will also increase as the Gen-X, Gen-Y, and other millennials assume judicial positions in state and federal courts.