Comments Due: April 26, 2019
The Appellate Court Procedural Rules Committee has proposed the next steps on a path towards implementation of mandatory electronic filing of appeal documents and permissive electronic transmission of trial court original records, although no date certain for mandatory filing is being proposed. The Committee’s proposal is contained in a package of proposed new rules and amendments to existing rules, and it seeks comment by April 26, 2019. 49 Pa. B. 825 (February 23, 2019).
The new rules being proposed, Pa. R.A.P. 130 through Pa. R.A.P. 136, would codify the existing PACFile practices and procedures presently set forth in an administrative order that was intended as an interim measure to guide electronic filing as the PACFile system was being rolled out. PACFile was launched in 2012 and gradually implemented in each of the three appellate courts on an optional basis; prescribing the applicable procedures in an administrative order allowed greater flexibility to change procedures as experience was gained. In addition to codification of existing procedures, proposed new Pa. R.A.P. 130(d) would provide amicus curiae access through PACFile to all documents and filings in a case; under the present PACFile system, only the parties to a case have full access to filings through PACFile.
The proposed rule amendments touch on a number of rules and topics, all related to the transition from paper filing to electronic filing of appellate cases, and to the perpetuation of parallel paper/electronic systems for attorneys who can show good cause for not using PACFile and pro se litigants who will not be required to do so.
- Rule 125, as amended, would mandate that PACFile is the exclusive method of filing appellate documents for attorneys, except for those who can show good cause for not participating. Appeals under the Abortion Control Act and the Wiretap Act would be exempted from mandatory PACFile filing. The proposed rule does not propose an effective date for mandatory PACFile participation, and the Explanatory Comment advises that the effective date “is anticipated” to be no sooner than twelve months after the Supreme Court adopts the package of proposed rules. The Committee is expressly soliciting “feedback on the proposed twelve-month period until participation is mandated.”
- Proposed amendments to Pa. R.A.P.s 121, 122, 124, 125, 1921, 2173, and 2174 are all intended to transition existing rules governing the filing and service of appellate documents, the form of documents, and the transmission of trial court records, to complement and co-exist with PACFile Rules 130-136 and Rule 125’s mandatory implementation of electronic filing for most of the cases on an appellate court’s docket. Thus, proposed amendments to Rules 121, 122, and 124 limit the filing and service requirements prescribed therein to the filing of paper documents. Proposed amendments to Rules 1921 and 1931 reflect the potential for electronic transmission of trial court records. Proposed amendments to Rules 2173 and 2174 mandate that the Arabic numbering of electronically filed documents begin on the cover page as page 1, so that electronically filed documents have internal pagination that matches their PDF pagination.
The proposed PACFile package of new rules and amendments does not propose to amend Pa. R.A.P. 1952, which prescribes the procedure for the transmission of the record on appeal from administrative agencies and government units other than trial courts. The proposed amendments to Pa. R.A.P. 1921 and 1931 refer to records from “a court or other government unit,” suggesting that the Committee intends through its amendments to those rules to allow agency records to be transmitted to the appellate court via PACFile, but if that is the intent, Rule 1952 would need to be amended to accomplish the goal.