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Links in Electronic Court Filings

Many courts have rules restricting the links that can be included in electronic court filings. The United States District Court for the District of Nebraska has posted the Attorney Guide to Hyperlinking in the Federal Courts to its site. The first section of the guide states that the only permissible hyperlinks in court filings are:

1. Links to different sections of the filing itself. E.g., from the Table of Contents to section headings.

2. Links to prior ECF filings.

3. Links to exhibits filed with a brief.

4. Links to cases and statutes.

5. Links to local rules.

The guide specifically states that, "A hyperlink to a public website where evidence can be found is not a substitute for filing evidence in support of a motion."

The District of Minnesota's Guide to Using Cross-Document Hyperlinks in CM/ECF notes that documents can be filed with links to ECF filings from the same case or other cases on the CM/ECF system, and contains instructions on how to create such links.

In 2013, Michael Dunbar prepared a compilation of federal court rules on hyperlinks in court filings, Hyperlinking: Electronic Submissions in the Federal Courts for the District of Kansas. In this comprehensive, but slightly out of date guide, we learn that the Local Appellate Rules for the Third Circuit specify that, ". . . the hyperlink and the site to which it refers are not considered part of the brief. Thus, they will not be considered part of the court’s record."

The Electronic Case Filing Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual for the District of Arizona states that, "A hyperlink reference is extraneous to any filed document and is not part of the court's record. A link to any document that does not reside on the ECF system for the District of Arizona is prohibited."

Attorneys wishing to be meticulous about their court filings may want to employ the "Remove All Links" utility in Adobe Acrobat, in the Document Processing section of Tools.

This will remove in any links inserted with Adobe Acrobat. However when I attempted to use it today on exhibits that contained email addresses and web addresses (listed in emails converted to PDF format) it did not remove those links. Clearly the federal courts want to guard against attorneys submitting briefs which contain links to online documentation that can function as supporting exhibits without being formally submitted as such. Taking the time to actually remove links of any kind may be an unnecessarily laborious process.

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