I just woke up this morning in a panic from a nightmare that would be funny if it were not so scary.
There I am in the dream trying to e-file a pleading with the Supreme Court. Naturally it is very close to the deadline.
Every time I click the “File” button, up comes a bunch of windows of grids of yellow boxes highlighting all the grammatical and other errors in the brief. Page numbers are across the top axis, and error descriptions down the side. What is scariest is that it seems like, but it not really clear, that the system will not let me file anything until they are all corrected. And, as in any well-designed nightmare, time is ticking by.
I try closing all these windows, since there, of course lots of them, and then new ones start to appear. And time is still ticking by.
Finally I wake up, and of course, since its 25 years since I was a litigator, no brief is really due anywhere, thank god.
But buried in that dream are two really great ideas.
First, no electronic system should prevent one meeting a deadline because of good faith technical (in the legal writing or pleading sense) errors. Any attempt to file should be regarded, as a matter of law, as sufficient. Moreover, the attempting filer should immediately be told that fact and given proof of the attempt to file.
Second, maybe there should be advanced online tools that help the self-represented make sure that their pleadings meet technical requirements. This could be done both by use of document assembly, still rare in the appellate context, and by just the kind of diagnostic intelligence that my nightmare featured. Like grammar and spellcheck, only much more.
The US Supreme Court could start with with a “Cert Petition Preparation System.”
What a way for courts to show that they are making efforts to be open and accessible.
p.s. It’s perfect. I go to my e-mail to check for the e-mail that proves to me that this post has really been filed on this blog. Nothing there. I keep clicking the “get mail” button, and nothing happens. Again and again. And, of course, the clock is still ticking. Finally the e-mail appears.