May 12, 2011

How might the popularity of tablet computers affect practice before the California Supreme Court?

iPads and other tablet computers are all the rage, and not only for surfing the ‘net on weekends and keeping up with your friends on Facebook. As this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discusses, iPads are becoming increasingly popular with judges and lawyers. Key advantages cited are that they are lightweight (they can store large numbers of briefs, opinions and transcripts), versatile, and their small size and lack of keyboard make them unobtrusive in the courtroom.

So do the Justices of the California Supreme Court use iPads or similar devices to review briefs and edit draft opinions? We know that at least some do. Indeed, the Chief Justice has commented that she brings her iPad to her daughters’ volleyball and basketball games. And we have known for a while that Justice Chin relies heavily on his Kindle. We do not know how widespread iPad use presently is on the Court, but we are certain it is the wave of the future. This fact was brought home to me when I attended last year’s summit of the Appellate Judges Education Institute and overheard several appellate judges from different jurisdictions raving about their iPads’ capabilities.

Since iPads and their kind are the wave of the future, we must ask how they will impact practice before the Supreme Court. Of particular interest to appellate lawyers is how our writing style and format should adapt to the fact that judicial decision-makers are no longer reading hard copies of our briefs, and are instead reviewing our briefs on screens in a paperless format. This fertile topic is too in-depth for discussion here, but we recommend these thoughts from Texas appellate lawyer Robert Dubose, author of Legal Writing for the Rewired Brain: Persuading Readers in a Paperless World © 2010 ALM Media Properties, LLC.

One Response to “How might the popularity of tablet computers affect practice before the California Supreme Court?”

  1. I was recently at a reception at the Ninth Circuit where at least one appellate judge on that Court mentioned using an iPad to read the briefs, particularly when riding circuit.

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