You already know that the Supreme Court adopted numerous amendments to the Rules of Appellate Procedure at the end of 2018. However, some of the most significant changes are occurring behind the scenes at the appellate courts’ electronic filing website (https://www.ncappellatecourts.org)
I. Court of Appeals Continues to Lift E-filing Restrictions
For years, the electronic filing website categorically prohibited e-filing appellate records in the Court of Appeals. As of January, many of those restrictions have been lifted by an updated “Note”: “In the Court of Appeals you cannot e-file Records, except for Rule 3.1 cases. You can file Record Supplements and Rule 9(d)(2) exhibits (in PDF format).” (Click on the screenshot below if your tired eyes need a bigger picture).
What does this mean in practice?
- Attorneys can (and in Rule 3.1 cases must) e-file the entire appellate record (including the printed record) in:
- Appeals originally docketed in the Supreme Court, and
- All Rule 3.1 appeals (i.e., juvenile and termination of parental rights cases) regardless of whether the appeals are originally docketed in the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals.
- For all remaining Court of Appeals cases, the printed record is the only record component that counsel cannot e-file. Stated another way, the following record components can be e-filed:
- Rule 9(d) Documentary Exhibits (new as of January 2019)
- Rule 11(c) or 18(d)(3) Supplements (since November 2018)
- Rule 9(b)(5) Supplements (since November 2018)
- Transcripts (since 2009).
Why would counsel go to the trouble of filing distinct components of the record using different filing methods? Remember: Parties are no longer required to file multiple copies of Rule 9(d)’s and other record supplements. Still, the printed record is the only record component automatically reproduced by the appellate court clerks. Do you really want multiple appellate judges sharing one copy of your fantastic Rule 9(d)? E-filing ensures that every appellate judge has access to a high-quality, digital copy of the appellate record (and can easily print it, if desired).
But be forewarned: Resist the urge to e-file record supplements and Rule 9(d) Exhibits before the printed record is docketed in the Court of Appeals. Doing so will result in the record being filed under different docketing numbers—which will create an administrative headache for the Court of Appeals (and you).
To avoid this issue, the Court of Appeals clerk is advising attorneys in non-Rule 3.1 appeals to
- File the printed record the “old way” (by hand-delivery or mailing),
- Wait until a docket number is assigned to the printed record, and
- Then e-file any remaining portions of the record under the assigned docket number (similar to the timing court reporters use to file transcripts).
II. Appeal Information Statements (AIS) are Now Entirely Web-based
Gone are the days of filling out PDF-based AIS forms. Under the new rules, counsel completes the AIS using a web-based form accessible only by logging into the e-filing website, locating the list of open appeals, and clicking a link to “File AIS.” See screenshot below.
As of February, users now have two options when they reach the last screen of the web-based AIS form: “Save as Draft” and “Submit Completed AIS:”
The “save as draft” option permits an attorney (or his/her assistant) to prepare a preliminary AIS that can be reviewed before the AIS is submitted to the appellate court. A few things to know:
- A user can “save as draft” as many times as he/she wants. Each time the user goes back into the AIS form for a particular case, the info entered on the last “Save as Draft” will display.
- Once a user hits “Submit Completed AIS,” the option to edit the AIS (or save further drafts) disappears.
- When an appeal involves multiple appellants, each appellant has the option to submit a separate AIS. In contrast, appellees cannot file an AIS.
Finally, do not be surprised to see further tweaks as the appellate courts’ tweak these e-filing procedures. Over the past month, changes and updates to the website were occurring on a weekly basis.
Have any tips for using the modified and improved e-filing system? Let us know in the comments below.