CD-ROM: Briefing of the Future Is Coming at a Click of a Mouse near You

Article excerpt

Appellate courts are moving toward the acceptance of CD-ROM briefs, and they, as well as appellate practitioners, are welcoming the trend

A CD-ROM brief is an electronic version of a paper brief stored on a compact disk with read-only memory. The CD-ROM (compact disk, read only memory) contains the briefs, authorities cited in the briefs, and the entire appellate record. It may be viewed without the necessity of any special programs or equipment other than standard computer equipment with a CD-ROM drive. A brief on CD-ROM will look identical to the original paper brief on the computer screen or if printed from the CD-ROM. Where the CD-ROM has enhanced features and differs dramatically from the paper brief is its ability to hyperlink by a click of the mouse to all the record and case citations, making the access to that information much easier.

Since the first CD-ROM brief filing in 1997, the use of CD-ROM briefs has become more pervasive and is continuing to rise. This certainly will increase in the coming years. Recent high-profile appeals using CD-ROM briefs include Microsoft's antitrust litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the Oklahoma City bombing trial in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. The 11th Circuit also has used CD-ROM briefs in both the Bush election recount and the Elian Gonzalez cases.

Advancements in technology have driven down the cost of preparing CD-ROM briefs. Even those cases where the damages in issue are relatively low are now good candidates for CD-ROM briefs, given the advantages they offer to the court and parties.

CAPABILITIES

The CD-ROM brief contains hyperlinks throughout the brief that are connected to the complete record and the legal authorities. This allows the user to jump instantly to specific documents or authorities.

The use of hyperlinking eases access to the record and authorities. For example, suppose the reader of the CD-ROM sees on the computer screen a proposition followed by a case authority. To find, access and review that authority, the reader need only double-click on the citation, which will be underlined, with the mouse, which then pulls up that authority. Readers can review the authority and print it, if they want to do so. When finished reviewing the authority, the CD-ROM user can "backtrack" to the point in the brief where the reader first examined the proposition, and then continue reading the brief.

A CD-ROM brief also can contain secondary links, which are additional hyperlinks contained within the cited material. For example, if the brief cites to the testimony of a witness, the reader can hyperlink to the particular testimony. If within that testimony the witness refers to an exhibit, a secondary link can be added to the exhibit so that the reader can click on the secondary link in the reporter's record testimony and go directly to the exhibit about which the witness is testifying.

Another capability of the CD-ROM brief is the display of video and audio testimony. For instance, in a particular appeal there might be critical testimony from a video deposition that was offered at trial. Rather than just reading what the deponent said, with a CD-ROM the user can click on the hyperlink and pull up the actual video of the individual. A case also might have a particularly relevant video as an exhibit-for example, a videotape of an accident at issue in the case or a video tape created by an expert. The appellate court would be able watch the video without having to find a video player and television monitor to watch the videotape.

Finally, the CD-ROM has a toolbar carrying useful items to annotate the CD-ROM brief. For example, the reader can highlight portions of the electronic brief with a highlighter or add notes to portions of the CD-ROM brief. The reader has the ability to print and review just the highlights or notes or print a copy of the brief with the user's highlights or notes. …