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The Third Branch

Court of Appeals looks at going paperless

Wisconsin Court of Appeals judges gathered in Madison for a symposium Sept. 20. Created as part of court re-organization in 1978, the Court of Appeals celebrated its 35th anniversary on Aug. 1. Pictured from left to right: Front row: Judge Michael W. Hoover, District III; Chief Judge Richard S. Brown, District II; Judge Patricia S. Curley, District I. Second row: Judge Paul B. Higginbotham, District IV; Judge Joan F. Kessler, District I; Judge Lisa S. Neubauer, District II; Judge Paul Lundsten, District IV. Third row: Judge Brian W. Blanchard, District IV; Judge Gary Sherman, District IV; Judge Paul F. Reilly, District II; Judge Kitty K. Brennan, District I.Top row: Judge Lisa K. Stark, District III; Judge Mark A. Mangerson, District III; Judge Mark D. Gundrum, District II; JoAnne F. Kloppenburg, District IV. Not pictured: Judge Ralph Adam Fine, District I.

Wisconsin Court of Appeals judges gathered in Madison for a symposium Sept. 20. Created as part of court re-organization in 1978, the Court of Appeals celebrated its 35th anniversary on Aug. 1. Pictured from left to right: Front row: Judge Michael W. Hoover, District III; Chief Judge Richard S. Brown, District II; Judge Patricia S. Curley, District I. Second row: Judge Paul B. Higginbotham, District IV; Judge Joan F. Kessler, District I; Judge Lisa S. Neubauer, District II; Judge Paul Lundsten, District IV. Third row: Judge Brian W. Blanchard, District IV; Judge Gary Sherman, District IV; Judge Paul F. Reilly, District II; Judge Kitty K. Brennan, District I.Top row: Judge Lisa K. Stark, District III; Judge Mark A. Mangerson, District III; Judge Mark D. Gundrum, District II; JoAnne F. Kloppenburg, District IV. Not pictured: Judge Ralph Adam Fine, District I.

In a unique twist to the usual judicial education programs, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals judges and staff attorneys were joined by appeals litigators from the offices of the state Attorney General, State Public Defender, appellate section of the State Bar of Wisconsin and the UW Law School's Frank J. Remington Center at a Madison seminar this fall.

The topic of mutual interest was a look at the future of appellate law—paperless courts, with Lisa Solomon, a New York lawyer, presenting.

The seminar was not an adventure in science fiction. The technology, for the most part, is here. Recall, for example, the 1968 epic "2001: A Space Odyssey." There was a scene of a keyboard with an attached screen where the astronauts were able to see and converse with family members on earth. Another scene showed astronauts reading from a tablet-like device while eating. Hal, the malevolent computer, had a screen from which astronauts could look at a number of various icons and select a specific program. Here we are in 2013 with Skype, iPads and desktop computers.

The way we read is changing. The words are the same, but the spacing is different. Most of our reading is on screens. And the pattern shows less and less paper and more and more screen reading. The data suggest that courts will be following this pattern sooner or later and some Wisconsin courts now have e-filing and e-record keeping. E-reading cannot be far behind. The participants learned the benefits of having a paperless court, as well as some of the pitfalls.

For example, studies show that those new to e-reading tend to use it for rapid information gathering, but are more comfortable using print for deep reading, which is what judges and litigators do. On the other hand, we already have Westlaw, Lexis-Nexis and even Google, which allow us to expect a quicker answer than reading a key digest. We are already using these sources as an adjunct to our own memory. The key to the future will be how to design legal writing so that it is palatable to the deep reader. There are several exciting possibilities for the near future—bookmarks so that the judges can turn to specific arguments in the brief, the use of illustrative graphs to fully enhance understanding complex litigation, the ability to process information in chunks, and hyperlinks, where judges will be able to click on a cited case or statute and have that case or statute appear on the screen in real time.

The participants agreed that for the lawyers and judges in this state to fully buy-in, there will have to be a plan that considers cost, technology issues, education and outreach, cooperation and progressive implementation. The participants agreed that a committee should be formed to begin this task. Stay tuned.

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