While paper remains the official form of filing for the Supreme Court, all parties who are represented by counsel must also submit electronic versions of filings through the system. Months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the Supreme Court’s new electronic filing system faces criticism.
According to an article on law.com, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. suggested the idea of transitioning from paper to electronic filing (or e-filing) back in 2014. But just a few months ago, in April, many law firms were still pushing for the e-filing option due to stay-at-home orders and potential health concerns surrounding coronavirus.
Although the high court has a hard copy requirement in place, it forces attorneys to find printing resources and make trips to the post office to mail their documents. Some even have to deliver these papers to the court themselves. In Virginia, one lawyer sent a letter to the Supreme Court clerk, Scott Harris, about having to take these measures for official filings, pleading that he temporarily suspend the requirement in light of the present crisis.
And she’s not the only one urging the court to change its practices. The law.com article says while she’s been questioning if printing and mailing paper copies should be considered “essential business,” other attorneys are also wondering whether it’s practical given the impact of coronavirus. Many have had to ask for extensions to file proceedings just to offset logistical challenges and printing delays. Even the U.S. solicitor general’s office has requested additional time for official filings, according to the article, to minimize health risks for its employees.
So far, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has suspended its paper copy filing requirement. The Supreme Court has made no decision on suspension. One change the Supreme Court has made: law firms are no longer required to deliver paper copies in-person. Instead, the filings will be screened off-site and then sent to the clerk, which may further delay filings.
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