FOURTH CIRCUIT DRAGS APPELLATE LAWYERS INTO THE 21ST CENTURY[Posted June 2, 2008] Are you a technologically savvy appellate lawyer? If not, then you need to learn how to become one, pronto. As of this morning, most filings in the Fourth Circuit must be done electronically (in addition to paper copies of formal briefs). Electronic filing has been permissible for a couple of months, but it became mandatory on June 1.
In order to file electronically, you need to get some available (and free) online training; you can find out about that here. You can also take a 2 ½ hour class offered by the court, which would probably be a good idea if you aren’t comfortable with electronic filings. Taking either type of training will enable you to get an ECF (Electronic Case Filing) password, which you’ll use to file documents thereafter. (You’ll also need a PACER account, which allows you to view court documents, but that system is probably more widely known by now.)
If you use a brief printing company to handle your filings (and I have long advocated doing just that), they can take care of the e-filings for you, but you’ll still need to get the password from the court.
In other Fourth Circuit news, the court is accepting applications for members of CJA (Criminal Justice Act) panel attorneys to handle federal criminal appeals. You’ll find information and an application form here. The court states in its notice of adoption that it recognizes “that while there are benefits to maintaining continuity of counsel, the skills necessary to proceed as appellate counsel may differ from those required of trial counsel.” While some appellate jurists cling to the notion that trial lawyers have all the skills necessary to handle appeals, the Fourth evidently recognizes what appellate lawyers already know: Handling trials and handling appeals require different skill sets, different vocabularies, and even different manners of thinking.
If you’d like to get some appellate experience, this is an excellent way to do that.