Over the course of my fifteen years as appellate counsel in the Pennsylvania office of Counsel Press, there have been extraordinary changes in the means by which briefs and reproduced records are filed with Pennsylvania appellate courts. The PacFile electronic filing system went online in 2012, and has been utilized by all three appellate courts since early 2015. Overall it is seen by most as both user-friendly and effective, which has enabled a far easier submission process.
Perhaps no feature of PacFile (or any electronic filing system) is more appreciated then the capacity to timely file late into the evening, allowing easier filing when “last-minute scenarios” inevitably arise. The question then arises, what would happen if PacFile suddenly experienced a system crash or became otherwise unavailable? This is not an idle concern. On May 21, 2019, Philadelphia’s online court system was forced to shut down due to a virus which prevented the filing of any documents. As of this writing it has yet to be fixed.
Although PacFile has never experienced a disruption this severe, it is important for anyone in appellate practice to stay familiar with the “old school” method of filing. Under Rules 121 and 2185 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure, briefs and reproduced records are deemed filed upon being mailed through the United States Post Office, either by USPS Express, Priority, or even Regular mail. USPS Form 3817 (proof of mailing) is not required except when filing in the Supreme Court. A CD-ROM is required, along with all hard copies, when filing via mail.
Though filing by mail does not allow for the same degree of last-minute filing as PacFile, it at least enables last day finalization of briefs and records. In the law, just as in all aspects of modern life, there is a real danger in being too beholden to technology. Whenever possible, it is therefore prudent to allow enough time to file by mail, just in case disaster strikes.
If you have questions about how to file your appeal, please contact staff counsel at Counsel Press.