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3 Must-Know Circuit Rules for New D.C. Appellate Attorneys

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

As a new attorney, navigating the rules of the D.C. Circuit or any court can be tough.

Making your first court appearance is incredibly scary and it can lead some lawyers to forget simple things, like filing procedures or how to avoid annoying security. Here are three must-know rules to remember before heading to the D.C. Circuit Court.

So whether you are a new attorney, or just new to appellate work in D.C., here are three rules you need to know:

1. Lawyers must e-file.

The D.C. Circuit has been requiring mandatory electronic filing of case files since 2009, but practitioners coming from other jurisdictions may be used to filing paper copies with the clerk.

All lawyers must file all original briefs, motions, forms, and other pleadings electronically. Any original paper filings will not be accepted by the Clerk's Office, according to the court's website.

As with all rules, there are exceptions:

  • Pro se parties must file their documents with the Clerk's Office.
  • Sealed documents are prohibited from being filed and served electronically.
  • Exhibits, attachments, and appendix items that exceed 500 pages, oddly formatted, or illegible when scanned can be filed in paper form. These items must be served pursuant to Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure Rule 25. However, the attorney must e-file a notice of paper filing in the system.
  • Motion and showing of good cause.

Like the Tenth Circuit, the D.C. Circuit offers online help in figuring out the e-filing system.

2. Entering the D.C. Circuit is like getting on a plane.

One rule to remember so you don't look like a newbie is to avoid bringing liquids in excess of 3.4 ounces into the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse and William B. Bryant Annex. Additionally, visitors are limited to up to three separate 3.4 ounce containers per person. Fortunately, no clear plastic baggie for your liquids is required.

If your nerves are making you thirsty, you'll be able to purchase something to drink inside. Hopefully, the court doesn't charge airport prices, too.

3. I need an extension.

If you've been swamped by work and accidently forgot to respond to or file a motion, you might be able to get an extension from the D.C. Circuit. Under Rule 26 in Title VII of the Circuit Rules, you may be able to get a extension by showing good cause. However, you won't be able to get more time to file a notice of appeal. You also won't get more time for a petition for permission to appeal, a notice of appeal from, and a petition to enjoin, suspend, or request other legal maneuvers when an administrative agency or officer of the United States is involved -- unless the law allows it.

You might want to re-read the D.C. Circuit's rules a couple times before your first hearing or contact the Clerk's Office if you have more questions.

What else do lawyers new to circuit practice in D.C. need to know? Tell us on Facebook.

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