The Recent Proposed Maryland Appellate Rules On Electronic Filing, in Plain English

By Michael Wein,

There’s been a lot of discussion recently in Maryland about electronic filing, which began in Anne Arundel County in October 2014. There’s also been some confusion for those who practice in the state’s appellate courts, which are located in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, about whether and when appellate materials can be filed electronically. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has used electronic filing – including filing appellate briefs in .pdf format with electronic signatures – for a number of years through its own dedicated appellate ECF system. So has Maryland suddenly adopted a system comparable to the Fourth Circuit?

The short answer is no, but with the caveat that, for those cases that originate from Anne Arundel County, it is expected that appeals (including appellate briefs) will be filed electronically. The confusion resulting from the appellate courts’ location in Anne Arundel County led to an email and page link from the Maryland Judiciary on November 7, 2014, specifically clarifying that electronic filing only affects cases that, in one form or another (even appeals from the District Court), go through the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County and therefore use electronic filing already. For cases in other counties – at least until they becomes part of the electronic filing system – bound copies of briefs and extracts will still need to be filed with the appellate court’s office by 4:30 p.m. on the due date.

That’s not all. The Court of Appeals has clarified that Maryland will not solely convert to electronic filings. Instead, the Court will adopt a system comparable to the Fourth Circuit requiring both that appellate briefs be filed electronically by the due date (presently just for cases arising from Anne Arundel) and that paper copies be transmitted to the court. This was done through an Emergency Rules Order adopted by the Court on November 6, 2014, instituting the current versions of Rules 20-405 and 20-406. (A recent non-Emergency Rules proposal, not yet adopted, also clarifies that these two new rules also apply to most other Court of Appeals’ filings, including certiorari petitions.)

This is unsurprising.  Even in the Fourth Circuit, an electronic filing of the brief is just the first step for official ‘filing’ and timing purposes, and the Court still for the most part expects attorneys or their printing companies to seasonably file (by hand delivery or mail) the written version of the briefs and extract. (However, Fourth Circuit practitioners are now permitted to rely fully on electronic citations to the lower court’s record instead of an extract, though most don’t.) Likewise, the state’s appellate courts still prefer (or at least permit the judges and parties to use and review) paper briefs and extracts, rather than solely reviewing the electronic versions. While Maryland’s appellate courts aren’t fully electronic yet, they’ve followed the Fourth Circuit’s example in at least covering the basics and decreasing the amount of bound-paper briefs.

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