Electronic Submittal to Virginia’s Appellate Courts
Stephanie Meharg, ACP, VARP
On July 1, 2015 the Virginia Supreme Court and the Virginia Court of Appeals began requiring that briefs and appendices filed after the granting of a petition, or after the docketing of an original jurisdiction petition be transmitted to the Clerk and all counsel of record electronically via VACES (Virginia Appellate Courts Electronic System) in addition to filing the hard copies with the Clerk’s office. Below is a summary of the VACES Guidelines (which can be found in their entirety here http://courts.state.va.us/online/vaces/resources/guidelines.pdf) and some helpful hints.
VACES requires that each organization have an Administration account. The Administrator manages and updates contact information, adds and deletes users, and unlocks and resets passwords. The administrator need not be an attorney. A non-attorney administrator should have an Administrator Only account. An attorney administrator can have an Administrator/Filer account. Attorneys who are not administrators can have a Filer only account. It’s a good idea to have a back-up or secondary administrator. The process for applying for a new VACES account is outline is Chapter II of the VACES guidelines. HELPFUL HINT Passwords expire periodically. It’s helpful for the administrator(s) to keep track of Filers’ passwords as well as the date that they were set.
Preparing documents to file
Format and File Size
Briefs and appendices filed on VACES need to be PDF/A compliant and text searchable. Briefs should not be scanned. Appendices can be scanned, but must be OCR’d so that they are text searchable. If a scanned image must be used, the paper document should be scanned at 300dpi or higher. VACES does not accept any document over 150 MB, and document over that amount must be broken up into multiple filings. HELPFUL HINT Documents scanned from paper usually have a larger file size. Once scanned, a document can be saved as a reduced size PDF by selecting the Save As option on the File menu.
Documents must be PDF/A compliant to be filed on VACES, but PDF/A documents cannot be edited, so the PDF/A conversion is the last step in the filing preparation process.
Page layout, Bookmarking, and page numbering
Briefs and Appendices need to open to the cover page with the Bookmarks Panel. You can set this under “Navigation” by going to the initial view tab under properties in the File menu. The Page Layout should be set to “Single Page” with Magnification set to “Fit Width.”
Documents should be bookmarked according to the Table of Contents. Bookmarks can be inserted by clicking on the bookmark icon and seclecting the “Insert New Bookmark” icon. HELPFUL HINT Bookmarks should follow an outline format. You can indent the book mark of a section or subsection of the brief by left-clicking on the bookmark and dragging the bookmark into place.
The thumbnails should be also numbered according to the table of contents. The thumbnail of the cover page should not have a page number. Page numbering can be achieved by right-clicking on the thumbnail and selecting the Number Pages option. You can suppress the number of the cover page thumbnail by selecting “None” under styles. HELPFUL HINT Page numbering the thumbnails should be done in sections. The cover (blank), Table of Contents and Table of Authorities (i, ii, iii, etc.), and the body of the brief (1, 2, etc.).
Hyperlinking (for example hyperlinking the cases in the Table of Authorities to the page in the brief where they first appear) is not required, but it is permitted, and it is helpful to the clerks at the court. You can insert hyperlinks by clinking on the link icon in the task ribbon and following the steps. HELPFUL HINT Linking from the table to the brief is fine, but you cannot include links to outside sources, i.e. websites.
An original signature is not required. The attorney can “sign” using /s and his/her name. However, if an original signature is used, the signature page must be scanned at 300 dpi or higher and OCR’d. You can avoid scanning the whole brief by just inserting the signature page into the PDF. By right-clicking the thumbnail and selecting “inset pages.”
Once the document is prepared you can convert to PDF/A by selecting the Action Wizard under the File menu. There are other ways of converting to PDF/A, but this is the easiest for me.
HELPFUL HINT Be sure to check your page layout settings, bookmarks, and page numbers after you convert to PDF/A. Settings can occasionally get stripped in the conversion, and the Clerk’s office will reject the electronic submittal it is not in compliance with the VACES Guidelines.