E-Filing Comes to SCOTUS

by Strasburger & Price, LLP

First, a pop quiz: Which appellate court with jurisdiction over Texas does not use electronic filing?  You may be tempted to answer “the Supreme Court of the United States.”  But on or after November 13, the correct answer is “none.”

As of that date, most documents filed with SCOTUS must be e-filed through https://file.supremecourt.gov.  Social Security and immigration cases are exempt (but require an explanatory letter with the initial filing).  Most letters are also exempt (but letters requesting an extension of time under Rule 30.4 and letters waiving the 14-day waiting period after a certiorari response under Rule 15.5, and a few other miscellaneous types of letters, must be e-filed).  Finally, bar membership documents, documents filed under seal, and documents filed by pro se litigants are exempt.

Filers are required to register for e-filing, and must be members of the Supreme Court bar.  The registration process can take up to two days.  Before filing in a case, an attorney must submit an electronic notice of appearance through the e-filing system, except that the filing of a case-originating document (such as a petition for certiorari) will operate as a notice of appearance.

Documents should be submitted in PDF/A format and, where possible, should be text-searchable.  Redactions must be made as with paper documents.  E-filed documents may contain hyperlinks to another part of the same document, or to an external source cited in the document.  And the maximum file size is a liberal 100 MB; larger documents can be broken up and filed in pieces.  Filing fees must be paid by check.

The clerk’s office will provide e-filing support during working hours.  After hours, filers encountering technical problems can e-mail documents to efilingsupport@supremecourt.gov and to their opponents, but will still be required to file the documents electronically once the problems are resolved.

E-filed documents will be posted on the Court’s website.  As with the lower-court PACER system, electronic filing notices will be sent to all registered users who have appeared in a particular case.  Note, however, that e-filing in the Supreme Court does not effectuate service, which must be accomplished in the traditional manner.  Rule 29.3 continues to require, in addition to physical service, that an electronic copy of each document be served reasonably contemporaneously with its filing.

And now the question you’ve all been waiting for: Does the new e-filing system dispense with the cumbersome and expensive process of having petitions, responses, and briefs printed and bound in booklet form?  Alas, the answer is no.  E-filing in the Supreme Court is not a substitute for traditional physical filing, but instead is an additional requirement.  So if you own stock in a brief-printing company, you can relax.

The Supreme Court’s e-filing guidelines can be found here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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