How hard can it be to compile an Appendix to file with an Appeal in Florida Appellate courts?
The answer is that the first time around it's harder than one thinks. There is definitely a learning curve associated with the manipulation of data that the rule requires. At the end of the process of putting together the technically challenging Appendix required by Rule 9.220 (3) you will have learned PDF file data manipulation tools that you will use in other areas of your practice.
That is a good thing.
You will need Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, which is a paid service of Adobe, otherwise you will not be able to complete all of the data manipulation required. You can purchase an individual plan for $25 per month (and actually purchase that program for one month and then just cancel it until you need it again), or you can purchase a monthly subscription for $15 with a one year commitment, billed monthly. You should consider just purchasing the annual subscription, because the program is amazing. Adobe Acrobat Pro plan is found here. If you don't have this program you will invariably need to hire someone who does to complete your Appendix for you. Fair warning there.
Back to preparing the Appendix:
Rule 9.220 (c) Fla. R. App. P. (10/1/17) states:
"(c) Electronic Format. The appendix shall be prepared and filed electronically as a separate Portable Document Format (“PDF”) file. The electronically filed appendix shall be filed as 1 document, unless size limitations or technical requirements established by the Florida Supreme Court Standards for Electronic Access to the Courts require multiple parts. The appendix shall be properly indexed and consecutively paginated, beginning with the cover sheet as page 1. The PDF file(s) shall:
(1) be text searchable;
(2) be paginated so that the page numbers displayed by the PDF reader exactly match the pagination of the index;
(3) be bookmarked, consistently with the index, such that each bookmark states the date, name of the document which it references, and directs to the first page of that document. All bookmarks must be viewable in a separate window; and
(4) not contain condensed transcripts, unless authorized by the court." Id.
This sounds pretty easy to accomplish for someone who is somewhat computer savvy, so you take your best shot, complete and file your Appendix, only to get this message back from the Appellate court Clerk with lightning speed:
"ORDERED that the Petitioner's amended appendix to the Petition ... is stricken as not in compliance with Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.220(c), which was amended effective October 1, 2017, in that it was not properly indexed and consecutively paginated, beginning with the cover sheet as page 1, was not paginated so that the page numbers displayed by the PDF reader exactly match the pagination of the index, and was not bookmarked in compliance with Rule 9.220(c)(3). An amended appendix in compliance with Rule 9.220(c) shall be filed within two (2) days from the date of this order."
Rule 9.220 (b) states: "(b) Contents. The appendix shall contain a coversheet, an index, a certificate of service, and a conformed copy of the opinion or order to be reviewed and may contain any other portions of the record and other authorities." Id.
So typically lawyers write briefs and at the end of a section or paragraph write something like "Appendix 1", etc.. to reference specific documents appended to the brief. The new rule requires the Appendix to be filed separately, as an individual filing, as opposed to a part of a different filing. This is not a big change, just remember that now the Appendix has a life of it's own as opposed to being an afterthought of some other document.
Here are a few useful tips for preparing your Appendix correctly the first time around, which will hopefully also save you some time on the learning curve for this project [One could easily spend 4-5-6 hours trying to figure these things out from scratch, without prior knowledge of how to operate Adobe Acrobat Pro to achieve these specific technical tasks]:
>The rule calls for "one" document. Adobe lets you combine multiple PDF files into a single file. The same tool permits you to add and delete single pages from a PDF document. Go to tools and select "combine files" and make a big PDF file with all of your Appendices in the order that those documents are referenced in your brief. Do not use blank page breaks, just put all the document files together one after the next. Page breaks are not permitted, because they throw off your pagination with a blank page. Appendix cover pages are not permitted either the way many used to file paper documents with page breaks identifying the appendices by number. These are no longer permitted in electronic format filings in Florida Appellate Courts, but are still widely used in trial level filings.
>The rule calls for a cover page, similar to the cover page of your main Appeal filing (all that same information and case style etc..) with "Appendix To" or words of similar import to describe the cover page. This will be paginated page 1 in this combined Appendices, infra. [Remember the cover is always Page 1 of pagination]. By the time your first Appendix attempt gets rejected by the Appellate Clerk, you will have an Appeal Case Number. If you have an Appeal Case Number issued by the time you file your Appendix you should insert that number onto the Appendix Cover. You may decide to let the Appendix Cover be the first bookmark, and the Index To Appendices be the second bookmark.
>The rule calls for an "Index To Appendix" that will be paginated page 2. The Index should name your appended documents in order, and by Appendix # as delineated in your main Appeal document. You can reference anything that is pertinent in your Index, however, the most important thing to remember is that the PDF reader page number must match the paginated page number of the document, that will also match the first paginated page number of the bookmark that you will enter shortly. This an area where many people get confused, and a reason why the Clerk rejects the completed Appendix. Here is a hypothetical example to illustrate this step: You plan that your 4th bookmark down will correspond to the 2nd document in your combined appendices. Lets say your second document is a 15 page contract. When you click on the 4th bookmark down, that brings you to page 76 out of 256 pages in the PDF page reader (top of the page) as the first page of the 4th bookmark. Assuming the 2nd document is 15 pages long, the PDF page reader for the 2nd document will correspond to pages 76-91 of the PDF Reader. The Index for the 2nd document must refer to paginated pages 76-91, and when one clicks on the 4th bookmark down, Adobe will bring you to page 76, the page you Bookmarked as the very first page of the 2nd document. The trick here is to prepare your Index correctly by inserting the correct paginated page numbers within the Index Word Document first, because once you convert that document to PDF and insert it into a combined file you will need to do it over in the event it has incorrect paginated page numbers listed.
>Pagination requires you to first insert all of your documents into a combined PDF file, including: cover page, your index page- with all paginated page numbers correctly identified within the index, all of your core documents in the proper order, (the Judge's Final Order being appealed, as Rule 9.220 requires a conformed copy within the Appendix, regardless of whether you consider it important in your Brief or not), and a Certificate Of Service, because this Appendix is a separate legal filing with a life of it's own now. You then open the combined Appendices in Adobe Acrobat Pro and click "Edit". You then click on "footer" that brings you to an ala carte screen, where you can add pagination to the combined PDF file, in the bottom margin .05". You select all pages in your range (hypothetically 1-256) and use format "Page 1" for the first page and click number all pages. Adobe will automatically Bates Number Paginate all of your documents at the bottom of each page, similar to Word or WordPerfect. Personally the Author numbers pages at the bottom left, as that area of PDF documents is normally blank. You don't want your pagination to overwrite any other important page numbers already present on the documents, such as a deposition or transcript page number in the middle of the page, or Clerk Record Bates Number, typically on the bottom right corner. Paginate in a blank space always at the bottom of the page.
>You will now add Bookmarks. In the Adobe Edit screen go to the first page of each document in your Index, including the Cover Page, and the Index Page, and then each document first page, and click on the "more" link and click on "Bookmark". According to the rule, your bookmark needs to: 1.) specifically name the document, 2.) reveal the date of the document, and 3.) cite the first paginated page number of the document. Again assuming the 4th bookmark down refers to document 2 that is a contract, the 4th bookmark might look something like this: "Contract, June 5, 2016, Page 76". You do not name the bookmarks 1-2-3-4, and you do not call the bookmarks Appendix 1-2-3-4. You only name the document appended-period. If you want to name the document "Appendix 2 Contract...Pages 76-91" in the Index To Appendices that is permissible, but that is the only place in the Appendix you will refer to any of your appended documents as appendices.
>Lastly again in the Adobe Edit tool, click "enhance scans" and "text recognition". That link will go page by page through your entire 256 page Appendix and make PDF documents text recognizable and then searchable, as required by the rule. It will take some time to recognize text so go have a coffee in the meantime.
>Do not forget to click "Save" into a new file, otherwise you may lose all of this work. The save is especially needed to save the text recognizable function.
>The Author suggests that you email the completed document to yourself before filing it to see how it uploads and downloads and then opens and navigates, all before filing it with the Appellate Court; to increase your chances that it won't be kicked back. Just a thought there.
>You may also want to save the combined file upon completion of each step listed above. You can always delete them later and it will help you realize that you have completed the previous step.
Good luck preparing your Appendix pursuant to Rule 9.220 (c) Fla. R. Civ. P. October 1, 2017. The good news is that few attorneys know how to complete the Appendix without errors and the rule actually requires the Clerk to give one multiple attempts to get the Appendix correct! That's good news too. When you first go to file your Appendix you will likely receive a warning from the Clerk's Website that they will reject your Appendix if it is not completed correctly. That's too funny that the Clerk expects you to file it incorrectly to the point where they are warning you before you file it!
Florida's Rule 9.220 (c) Appendix Rule is not like riding a bicycle for the first time; it's more like jumping out of a plane for the first time. Regardless, the second time around you will likely feel more confident than the first time. Hence, the invariable learning curve is upon you now.
Here is a link to a similar Article from Robin Bresky Appellate Law Firm describing the same procedures, with less hands on in the trenches detail.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as constituting legal advice. It is intended to provoke critical thinking related to the issues presented. The opinions rendered are the opinions of the Author, a non attorney. Nothing presented in this Article should be interpreted as legal advice as any such interpretation is unintended. In fact it is not legal advice and was written by a non-attorney. You should consult with your attorney to determine the best course of action to take on your case.
Copyright 2018 All Right Reserved, by Joseph J. Pappacoda, JD, Senior Litigation Paralegal, GhostWriter Paralegal, Chartered, Fort Lauderdale, Florida