The Third Circuit has begun appendix-hyperlinking pilot project, and it might apply to your case without you realizing it

The Third Circuit has begun a pilot project testing software that converts appendix citations in parties’ briefs into hyperlinks. This innovation, pioneered in the Fifth Circuit I believe, makes it wonderfully convenient for judges and clerks to check cites to the record, and with little-to-no added burden to the parties, so I’m hoping the testing is successful and appendix hyperlinking becomes standard.

For cases chosen by the court for inclusion in the pilot program, here’s how it works. Parties/counsel don’t create their own hyperlinks. Instead, they use a consistent format for cites to the appellate appendix: Appx__, with the page number in the blank. And they use the same format for the appendix page numbers themselves. Then, when the briefs are filed, the clerk’s office uses software that converts the appendix cites into hyperlinks. The clerk’s office then circulates the hyperlinked version within the court. (All of this is explained in a helpful 15-page manual that the court sends out attached to the notice of inclusion. The manual doesn’t appear to be on the court’s website yet.)

All litigants have to do is remember to use the court’s prescribed format for the cites and the pages. They may even save words on their word limit, since the court’s format results in appendix cites that count as one word, unlike the cite formats many lawyers use, like “JA 28.”

The only part that should be a challenge for any lawyers is that the appendix page numbers have to be applied by your pdf software. (Adobe Acrobat, Foxit Phantom, etc.). You can’t paginate your appendix by hand and then scan it. (Honestly, weeding out anyone still doing that may be a bonus.)

But, to be clear, this is still only a pilot program, it is not (yet) a requirement for all cases. I see no reason not to use the new format in all of your Third Circuit briefs, and I plan to do exactly that, but you don’t have to unless your case has been designated by the court for inclusion.

Which brings me to my last point: that designation happens at the beginning of the case, amidst other standard beginning-of-the-case paperwork. It is a separate ECF entry. The first page is titled, “Notice to counsel, pilot project for appendix citation hyperlinking.” So be careful not to overlook it. And be especially careful not to overlook it if you were not the lawyer originally appointed by the court. The court does not re-enter the pilot-project notice each time substitute counsel appear. (I humbly suggest that it should.) So all counsel should be careful to review the case-opening docket entries to determine whether the appeal has been chosen for inclusion.

Traps for the unwary aside, this is a positive step and I applaud the court for moving forward with it.