Judges Want You to Add Links to Your Pleadings

On the one hand, it’s nice that PDF documents are basically just electronic versions of paper documents. It makes it easier for non-techie people to wrap their heads around paperless documents. On the other hand, if you cannot get past that simple analogy, you aren’t taking advantage of the medium.

All federal courts are now paperless to some degree, and have been for some time. That means your documents are submitted electronically in PDF format (although many judges still require a paper copy). So if a judge is looking at your PDF, and wants to look up a case you have cited, she has to select the citation (non-trivial on a tablet), switch over to Westlaw or Fastcase or Lexis, paste the citation, and look up the case. Or if your citation is to the record, she will have to scroll through PACER’s antiquated interface to find the document, pull it up, and scroll to the right page. It’s not overly difficult, but it’s a small hassle the judge will have to repeat over and over again.

Or, you could use hyperlinks in your brief so that all the judge has to do is click on a link to be taken to the case or the document in the record. One click and the judge is where she needs to be.

Judges will be grateful for this. At Hercules and the Umpire, retired federal district court judge Richard Kopf says “I hope that happens, and very soon.” In fact, judges are already ahead of you in doing this.

It’s not even hard. Kopf includes links to two tutorials:

Both of those links will take you to the Nebraska federal court website, but they will give you the right idea no matter where you practice.



  1. Avatar Keith Lee says:

    This is one of those “know your audience” situations. Some judges will likely appreciate hyperlinks. “Old school” judges will likely be wondering why the hell all your citations are in blue.

  2. Avatar Craig says:

    Has anyone looked into the cost burden that will be shifted to clients because attorneys are now required to spend much more time making a document accessible for judges?

    • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

      Define “much more time.” I’d estimate 10-15 minutes for a reasonable-length summary judgment motion.

      • Avatar Craig says:

        Hmm, that’s not as bad as I would have thought. Many of the attorneys around here are old, and there are several that probably should not be practicing anymore. I just keep imagining opposing counsel from a recent motion hearing attempting to use a computer.

  3. Avatar Cheryl Harman says:

    If I were in litigation, I would already be doing this. Always thinking what would make worklife easier for others. Would love to do the same kind of thing in my area of law – patent prosecution. It’ll happen eventually.

    • Avatar Michael says:

      I use ExhibitManager (www.exhibitmanager) for organizing, citing and bundling exhibits in my legal submissions. Once you are finished drafting it will create an eBrief (PDF version with hyperlinks to all cited exhibits) in about 2 minutes (for a brief with perhaps 200+ citations). An additional nice feature is that if you’ve cited to a specific page of an exhibit (e.g. p. 12 of a contract), the hyperlinked exhibit will open at that page.

  4. Avatar Randall R. says:

    Wait a second, where are the tips on finding extra heart containers and defeating Ganon? This is bunk.

  5. Avatar Lori says:

    We actually did this a few years ago on a very complicated Daubert motion, and submitted the courtesy copy to the judge on a DVD with the transcripts, cases and exhibits all linked. It was very much appreciated by the judge – and the client.

  6. Avatar The Last Honest Lawyer says:

    This idea is do overdue, that you’d have to buy the library book. Welcome to the 21at century, naysayers.

  7. Avatar Damien Riehl says:

    Strange that federal courts are moving to require the PDF/A standard, which — for many PDF viewers, depending upon their configuration — doesn’t display hyperlinks . Very happy to see that at least some federal judge see the value of links. Speaking of links: here are some that discuss PDF/A and embedded hyperlinks.


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