Electronic filing is coming to the U.S. Supreme Court! Effective November 13, 2017, amendments to the Supreme Court’s rules take effect that require represented parties (and their amici) to submit petitions, briefs, and most other filings through the Court’s electronic filing system. The Rules explain that the new e-filing requirements are “[i]n addition to the filing requirements” already set forth in the Rules. Accordingly, parties and their amici will still be required to submit forty copies of their briefs on paper in booklet form, and they now must additionally submit one paper copy on 8.5 x 11 inch paper (in case the Clerk’s office needs to scan the brief for any reason). The paper submission remains the “official filing” for purposes of determining timeliness, but e-filing is supposed to occur “contemporaneously” with the paper filing. Pro se parties will continue to file submissions exclusively on paper; those submissions will be scanned by the Clerk’s office and posted on the Court’s web site.
John E. Roberts is a partner in the Litigation Department and co-chair of the firm’s Appellate Practice Group, which was named to the National Law Journal’s 2020 Appellate Hot List. He litigates cutting-edge appellate matters in state and federal appellate courts across the country, including the United States Supreme Court.
John’s advocacy led to a favorable decision by the Supreme Court in the landmark patent case, Nautilus Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., and ultimately victory on remand at the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. John has represented the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico—the entity created by Congress to oversee the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s massive public debt—in dozens of appeals at the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He has also prevailed in some of the most important ERISA appeals in recent years.
John maintains a robust pro bono practice and is a member of the firm’s Pro Bono Initiative Committee. For more than five years, he has provided pro bono representation to a criminal defendant in a death penalty case. He has also provided pro bono representation to various advocacy organizations in high-impact litigations, including the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Citizens for Juvenile Justice, the Bronx Defenders, and the National Immigration Litigation Alliance.
John graduated magna cum laude from the New York University School of Law, where he was an articles editor for the New York University Law Review. He received his B.A. from Harvard University, where he graduated cum laude. He served as a clerk to the Honorable Bruce M. Selya, the most prolific opinion-writer in the history of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Roger Williams School of Law in Bristol, Rhode Island, where he teaches appellate advocacy, and he is a co-author of the treatise Principles of Appellate Litigation: A Guide to Modern Practice.
Before John attended law school, he worked as a journalist for National Public Radio for many years, where he was a co-creator of the national news program, On Point, and won several awards for his reporting. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with his husband, Michael.
When a district court issues an order extending a filing deadline, it is usually safe to assume that your client will not be prejudiced as long as you file within the period ordered by the court.
However, consider the case of Charmaine Hamer. She recently lost summary judgment on an age-discrimination claim against her former employer and sought to appeal. Prior to the expiration of the 30-day period for filing a notice of appeal prescribed by FRAP 4(a), she asked the district court for an extension. The district court granted her an additional 65 days to file her notice. Hamer then filed the notice within the extended period prescribed by the court, and the case went up to the Seventh Circuit.
Several amendments to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure are scheduled to take effect on December 1, and one of those amendments is causing consternation among appellate practitioners: a 1000-word reduction in the word limit for principal briefs, along with a 500-word reduction for reply briefs. Since 1998, the Rules have allotted parties 14,000 words for their principal briefs, provided that they comply with certain typeface requirements. Under the new Rules, that limit will be reduced to 13,000 words. Reply briefs will continue to be limited to half the length of principal briefs, and will therefore be shortened by 500 words.
In support of the rule change, the Advisory Committee noted that the current 14,000-word limit resulted from an attempt in 1998 to convert the 50-page limit then in effect into a cap on words. At that time, the Committee concluded that briefs generally contained about 280 words per page — and 280 words-per-page times 50 pages equaled 14,000 words. Now, the Committee has revised its view and concluded that appellate briefs prior to 1998 actually had closer to 250 words per page, which in its view justified reducing the word limit to 12,500 words. Pushback from appellate practitioners resulted in the new limit being upped from 12,500 to 13,000 words.