Invariably, one side is sorely disappointed with the outcome of an appeal. Thus, petitions for rehearing and petitions for review are common last-gasp hail-mary attempts that clients (and their lawyers) cannot resist filing. With a per curiam opinion today, the Supreme Court announced some changes to that process.
Prior to today, petitions for rehearing and review could not be filed electronically because the system was not equipped to accept the filing fee. Starting today (and mandatory on July 1, 2019), rehearing and review petitions can be filed electronically.
The timing for review petitions has also changed. Formerly, rehearing and review petitions were due the same day. Old Rule 2-4(a). That was one less deadline to keep up with. Effective July 1, 2019, a petition for review is now due “within ten calendar days of the end of the rehearing period.” The rehearing period is the later of (1) the expiration of time for filing a petition for rehearing (which is 18 days from the date of decision), or (2) within ten calendar days of the disposition of the last pending petition for rehearing. New Rule 2-4(a)(effective July 1, 2019). A petition for review filed prior to these events will be accepted as tendered and deemed filed on the day after the end of the rehearing period. Responses will still be due within ten (calendar) days of the filing (or deemed filed) date of a petition for review.
The $25 filing fee for rehearing and review petitions will be accepted online, similar to how filing fees are now paid for new lawsuits in circuit court.
Additionally, review petitions will no longer be assigned a new case number. They will retain the same case number that was used for the Court of Appeals case.
Finally, when a review petition is granted, the parties may now file supplemental briefs without filing a motion for permission to do so. New Rule 2-4(g) addresses that change.
I’m not a big fan of adding a new and confusing due-date for review petitions; however, the other changes today are positive steps toward taking full advantage of the electronic filing system in Arkansas appellate courts. The benefits of e-filing include reducing paper waste, postage and delivery costs, and physical storage space required by the clerk’s office. E-filing also makes appeal documents more accessible to a wider audience and more usable based on PDF search functions, bookmarks, and hyperlinks. Possible next steps to maximize the benefit of the electronic filing system may include:
(1) End the requirement for six conventional paper copies of appeal briefs, abstracts, and addendums. Those can still run thousands of pages and a substantial cost burden.
(2) Link the trial court’s e-filing docket with the appellate court e-filing system. That could eliminate or greatly reduce the size of addendums and make pleadings and orders easily and automatically accessible with links from briefs.
(3) Pave the way for filing a digital version (only) of entire appeal records. Records have grown unwieldy and cost-prohibitive. Records often exceed 1,000 pages even in simple cases, and too many cases have records measured in boxes, not pages or volumes.
Please consult the new Rules and the Per Curiam decision (linked above) the next time you are contemplating a rehearing or review petition. If in doubt, call the always-helpful Clerk’s Office at the Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
—Tim Cullen, March 14, 2019