Friday, June 08, 2007

Another triumph in the techno-legal world: The Curmudgeon learns to e-file

No, that isn't me over on the left, but I too was sweating bullets a little earlier this afternoon.

I'd been working on a response to a potentially dispositive motion all week -- reading cases, finalizing affidavits... that sort of thing. I found that, in addition to these traditional responses, I also needed to file three motions of my own... one attacking the other side's affidavit, another seeking leave to clean up my pleadings and still another one seeking to stay (legalese for put the kibosh on) proceedings instituted by the other side in another forum. The particulars are not important to this story.

I got home around 10:00pm last night, mostly pleased with myself, and on a couple of different levels, too. I'd come home late three nights out of four this week, and only on Wednesday did I not think I was particularly productive -- and even then I spent most of the day researching. Reading cases. Cogitating. (Thinking mostly about how I wish I could expect payment of my hourly fee on this matter... but that's also another story.) The point is I was able to exert myself in ways I have not been able to since my surgery. That was good.

Also good was the feeling that I'd done good work -- that my client was well-served by my efforts and that I'd left nothing that needed saying unsaid.

Of course, the attorney who referred the case to me read my stuff overnight on Thursday and found that I'd left a couple of things unsaid after all... but his suggestions were constructive and I was happy to incorporate them this morning.

But then I had to face the real challenge.

I had to e-file my papers.

The District Court here wants everything filed electronically these days -- although we have to take paper copies over to the Federal Courthouse for the judges themselves.

It's actually kind of nifty: The document, once filed, pops up in the email of all the other attorneys... no postage... no envelopes... less photocopying. The bad part is everyone else's documents come to me the same way. My poor little inkjet printer must do yeoman work some days.

The real problem comes, though, when someone decides that, just because a document has Exhibits A through E attached, he or she must make six attachments to the original electronic filing. It takes forever to download all this and combine them the way they need to be combined. (The system in the Federal Court in Chicago has a 2MB limit on file size -- but you can use a lot of pages before you bump up against that.)

Anyway, they have a training course for the lawyers to take to navigate the e-filing system here. When you graduate you get your super-secret password and decoder ring and you are authorized to file.

I didn't get the training. I got my password in a fit of pique.

This system was imposed on us a couple years back now. I don't do a lot of work in the Federal court and, frankly, I wasn't interested in learning anything new that I wouldn't use on a regular basis. But I had one matter pending as the transition to e-filing was underway and I had occasion to be in the Clerk's office one afternoon because of it. And, because I have a big mouth and limited self-control, I began carping about this new system.

"I'm too old for this," I grumbled, using one of my recurring themes.

"Well then, sir," said the prissy little man who was apparently the deputy assistant underclerk in charge of e-filing, "perhaps you're too old to be practicing law."

"Just give me the darn form," I said, referring to the sign-up to become an e-filer. (Only I didn't say "darn." And the conversation was more extensive, and even less interesting, than this.)

"Harrumph," said the prissy little man, and he harrumphed again when I quickly filled in the form and handed it back. "You'll get your access code in the e-mail tomorrow," he said. You do know how to open up an email don't you? He didn't actually say this... but the look on his face made it clear that this was in his mind.

And in our little snit there the requirement of my participation in the training course was somehow waived.

Since then I have e-filed maybe two documents, a page or so each. And gotten hate email from the Clerk thereafter about what I did wrong. On the couple of matters which I have handled in Federal Court since the imposition of this e-filing regime, I have had co-counsel who could undertake the e-filing for me. But I don't have co-counsel in Chicago on this case -- I'm the only one who can file documents here.

Which brings us to today. When I had to file these eight documents.

But I did. They all went through. And I'm pretty sure I filed the documents I intended to file, too, extracting all the draft pages in Adobe and inserting the corrected pages as necessary. So it was my techno-legal triumph of the day.

And so it will remain... until Monday, at least, when the Clerk will no doubt email me and tell me what I did wrong....


sari said...

I laughed at the harrumphing, snitty hate email. That's good stuff!

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

what a little priss! good going curmy. you must have taken your you-know-what! ha ha

glad you are progressing nicely now too...

smiles, bee

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Well done; tog suggest you are too old for it is insulting.

tkkerouac said...

love your blog!

Barb said...

This was really interesting and I'm not usually one to read long posts. (hanging my head in shame.)

Having just finished reading two books concerning the OJ trial (and I use that word loosely) I was wondering how awful it would have been if they'd had to e-file.

Patti said...

I hate running into people like that when I'm just trying to do my job. What a priss. He needs to get a life, or a wife or something.
Good going.
I'm glad to read your health is improving.

Patti said...

I just made a seal but promptly lost it before saving. Errggh. Thanks for the link, I'm going to make one again.

Shelby said...

loved this one!

Dave said...

Ah, but the electronic filing dockets for bankruptcy are wonderful! Even at eight cents per downloaded page.

Not to add to your potential angst; but, I'm still scared to death when I Efile, even though you get an electronic "receipt" back

Dave said...

Ah, but the electronic filing dockets for bankruptcy are wonderful! Even at eight cents per downloaded page.

Not to add to your potential angst; but, I'm still scared to death when I Efile, even though you get an electronic "receipt" back

Anonymous said... giant leap for legal-kind!

Linda said...

At the rate things are going, pretty soon you won't even have to make an appearance in court - you'll be able to do it via webcam!

You do know what a webcam is, right? Harrumph!

Mother Jones RN said...

Thank you for that story. I needed a good laugh.