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7th Circuit seeks comment on e-filing rule changes

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is revising its rules to require initial electronic filing of all documents, and the federal appellate court is taking public comment for the next three weeks.

Proposed revisions to Circuit Rule 25 on e-filing and Rule 27 on emergency filings were posted Monday, giving the public until March 25 to review and submit comment about the changes. The Circuit would also strike Rule 31(e), which deals with uploading digital briefs and would no longer be needed under the new rules.

If the rules are adopted by an advisory committee as proposed, the court expects them to take effect May 1. A draft of the Electronic Case Filing (ECF) Procedures can be found on the court’s website at www.ca7.uscourts.gov.

“Many courts are using this e-filing already, so we’re just hopping on the bandwagon,” said Circuit Clerk Gino Agnello in Chicago. “This has been evolving nationally during the past two years and we’re one of the last to do it, because we wanted to make sure all the kinks are out of the system. We were one of the first in the country to make briefs and opinions available electronically and most attorneys have been doing this at the District level already, so our bar is ready to go.”

Rule 25 pertains to all briefs, motions, petitions, and similar documents filed with the court but does not apply to pro se litigants and also allows for parties to request an exemption from the rule. Rule 27 outlines the procedures for emergency filings when the Clerk’s Office is closed.

As far as electronic access to documents, these rule revisions don’t make any practical changes to what attorneys and members of the public will see online, Agnello said. Rather, it will push the court to go paperless and require the initial e-filing. Traditionally, paper filings have been the “official” copies while e-briefs have been the courtesy copy.

Agnello said pinpointing a number of documents this could involve is difficult to assess, because any of the 3,300 to 3,400 new filings a year could entail multiple briefs and documents.

“Whatever the amount, this will reduce the number of paper files we have dramatically,” Agnello said.

Written comments can be submitted to: Advisory Committee, c/o Clerk of Court, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 219 South Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60604. They can also be sent by email to USCA7_Clerk@ca7.uscourts.gov.

Once the start date gets closer, Agnello said the court will likely post training materials online for attorneys and members of the public.

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