These past two days, I’ve been attending the annual Appellate Advocacy Seminar put on by the Bar Association of the Fifth Federal Circuit. The entire seminar was great, but perhaps the most valuable information came from the clerk of court, Lyle Cayce. Mr. Cayce revealed that most of the judges read brief on iPads. But before the briefs are downloaded to the iPad, they are run through a program that automatically turns all the legal citations into hyperlinks, linking to either Lexis or Westlaw. So whenever the judge comes across a legal citation, the judge can click on the link and can instantly see the cited authority.
There’s more. The district courts in the Fifth Circuit are moving toward electronic records on appeal. Fifth Circuit Rule 28.2.2 is going to be amended to require a uniform method of citing the record: “ROA.[page number].” Why? Because someone has developed a program that can convert all properly formatted record citations into hyperlinks, which will link to the cited page of the electronic record. The program will recognize “ROA.[page number]” as a record citation and automatically create the hyperlink.
Mr. Cayce hopes to make the hyperlinked versions of the briefs available on PACER. But meanwhile, the information he provided is going to change the way I write U.S. Fifth Circuit briefs.
Here is the change: Before today, I used footnotes for some legal citations and all record citations. From now on, all the important citations, including record citations, are going to be in main text, not in footnotes. From a typographic standpoint, this may be aesthetically unpleasing. But from a reader-friendly standpoint, it is the way to go when you realize that all those citations are going to be hyperlinks. To make the on-screen reader’s job easier, you want that hyperlink to be located as close as possible to the associated text. You don’t want to make your reader do the extra work of scrolling down the page to find the hyperlink.