The Advisory Committee on the Maine Rules of Appellate Procedure, of which I am a member, has been working with the SJC on potential changes to the rules. The Court has made the proposals publicly available, and has invited public comment. The deadline for any comments is July 1.
A quick summary of key changes may be helpful (though you should note this list isn’t exhaustive):
- Rule 1C: Electronic Signatures. The proposed rules include a new Rule 1C, which permits lawyers to sign documents electronically. This will be familiar to practitioners, as it is patterned on and would make permanent the SJC’s pandemic orders permitting electronic signatures.
- Rule 2A(b): Appearances of Counsel. The amendments would clarify that, when an appeal is docketed in the Law Court, only members of the Maine bar are deemed to represent parties on appeal. Any out-of-state attorneys must file a pro hac motion, even if the visiting attorney was permitted to practice in the trial court.
- Rule 2C: Cross-Appeals. The Court is also proposing a change on a topic that has been a frequent topic on this blog (including here and here): cross-appeals. The amendment would add language specifically stating that “[a]n appellee need not file a notice of appeal if no change in the judgment is sought.” This new language, together with an explanatory advisory committee note, should help reduce the confusion regarding whether it is necessary to file a cross-appeal simply to argue that alternative grounds support the judgment that is on appeal.
- Rule 7A: Content and Formatting of Briefs. The proposals also include a revision to Rule 7A, which governs the formatting of briefs. There are a few changes of note here:
- The rules had not previously contemplated the use of an introduction, though by practice many attorneys included an introductory section. The rules would now formally permit an introduction.
- The proposed rule would also eliminate one somewhat odd rule regarding font size; block quotes will no longer be permitted to appear in 11-point font. Only footnotes can appear in 11-point font, while all other text must be 14-pont font.
- Rule 7A would also be amended to clarify that briefs “must be prepared using a word processor’s double space function.” This clarification prevents the gamesmanship that can occur when briefs are set using the “exactly” function to fit more lines on a page.
- Rule 7A: Supplemental Authority Letters. The amendments would also make Rule 7A(j) more in line with federal rules, allowing parties to submit to the Court a letter regarding any new legal authorities that come the parties’ attention after oral argument at any time before the decision issues. Previously, parties could only do so before oral argument or within a 6-week window following the filing of the appellee’s brief if the case was not set for oral argument.
- Rule 10: Electronic Filing. The proposed rules would also permit motions to be filed electronically, by sending an email to the Clerk of the Law Court.
In my view, the proposed rules changes bring significant improvements and clarifications. If you agree or disagree, you should submit comments on the proposals.