Even lawyers have gone green and are becoming more aware of the fact that our profession consumes a lot of paper—and effectively trees. Hundreds of thousands of pleadings are filed in court each year, each pleading ranging from a single page to over a hundred pages, not including the copies served to adverse parties or the duplicate copies required by the court. And when the proceedings have ended, they end up stacked all over the court house, gathering dust, waiting to be recycled. “E-pleadings” or filing and serving pleadings and other papers via electronic mail seems like the answer to this problem.
In 2010, a special committee of the Florida Bar came up with an amendment to the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee, which provided that instead of sending paper copies of their pleadings via the US Postal Service, lawyers would email PDFs of the pleadings and other papers, limited to five megabites per document. One document per email and all service e-mails have a subject line that starts with the words “SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT” and then the relevant case number. The rule was intended to be mandatory and would only exempt lawyers who did not have Internet access or e-mail service, who would need to ask permission from the judge to continue with paper service. One of its main proponents, Atty. Paul Regensdorf from Ft. Lauderdale, noted that the amendment would provide for many advantages for lawyers, making service and filing more efficient and less costly. Lawyers no longer need to print hard copies of the documents which are already in electronic formal. Pleadings are received without the delay of regular mail while allowing lawyers to substantially cut down their costs—paper, ink for printing, messengers, and mailing costs. Of course, the amendment does have its limitations. For instance, there is the possibility of losing the pleading in the sea of emails that most people get on a daily basis, which include the garbage that our spam filters fail to take out. There is also the possibility of never receiving the email although the sender swears to having sent it, it being on his sent items as proof. So although there are many great things that can come out of this whole shift, such as the amount of time, effort, and of course, the amount of paper that can be saved, there are so many things that need to be ironed out before we make this a reality. Nonetheless, this move towards “E-pleadings” is not surprising, and for some even inevitable. We just have to figure out the best way to make it happen.
Joni R. Gomez, Blog Entry # 11