By far the most common support issue we assist with is helping attorneys and staff format their documents required to be submitted in Rich Text Format (.rtf) in a way that the Court’s system can process smoothly. Let us start by saying, that as the filer you are likely creating Rich Text Format documents that to most of the world are perfectly acceptable documents easily read with any word processing software. The Utah Courts, however, don’t work with your Rich Text Format documents like most would, and therefore have introduced formatting issues and require the filer to correct. Before we describe these issues, and how to correct them, let us provide some understanding of why the Court requires Rich Text Format documents and how these formatting issues arise.
Why does the Court require Rich Text Format (.rtf) documents for some documents filed?
The Court requires Rich Text Format (.rtf) typically for those documents that the court clerk or Judge are required to sign and process. Some sample documents that fit this description are things such as:
- Default Certificates
- Writs of Garnishment
- Orders (Proposed)
- Judgements (Proposed)
The reason the Court requires they be submitted as Rich Text Formatted (.rtf) documents is so that they may retain the ability to edit these documents, prior to signing, within their judicial review and signature software. If these documents were submitted as PDF, then they would not have any option to edit them.
In addition, upon reviewing and approving these documents, the Court is able to place a signature stamp on the RTF document using their judicial signature software.
Why Rich Text Format (.rtf), and not Word (.doc / .docx) or WordPerfect (.wps)?
Rich Text Format documents are a universal file format that can be generated or viewed by most any word processing platform (Word, WordPerfect, WordPad, NotePad, OpenOffice, etc…). By requiring attorneys to submit these documents in .rtf, it doesn’t require that attorney to use a specific word processing software. The Court does not want to require attorneys to use Word, or WordPerfect … so by requiring documents be submitted as Rich Text Format the Court has allowed attorneys to continue to use whatever word processing software they are most comfortable with.
How are documents submitted as Rich Text Format processed by the Court?
The Court has developed its own software for use by court clerks and judges for the purpose of reviewing documents requiring their signature, signing those documents, and filing or docketing them on the case. This software is browser based (viewed using a web browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome) and allows the clerk or judge to view your document from within the browser.
In order to display the .rtf document to the clerk or judge, and provide them the tools within the browser they need to possibly edit, then sign the document, the Court must first convert the document from Rich Text Format to an HTML format. What the clerk or judge is viewing when they are reviewing your document is your RTF document already converted to HTML.
Once the clerk or judge has reviewed and approved your document, they use this software to place a signature stamp on the document. The software then processes the document to record it on the record and prepare for permanent storage in the Court’s document management system. In doing so, the software performs another conversion of the document from HTML to a final PDF. This PDF document is the one this is permanently store, and distributed electronically to all the attorneys of record on the case.
Why are documents poorly formatted once signed, or not signed at all due to the formatting problems?
To be blunt, let’s just say the process described above, that of converting documents from RTF to HTML, signing them, then converting them to PDF, is a less than perfect process.
The first conversion from RTF to HTML can very easily introduce formatting problems if there are any attributes contained within the RTF document that don’t convert to HTML well. Some of those attributes are, but may not be limited to, the use of:
- Word Text Boxes
- WordPerfect Columns
- Embedded images
- Embedded drawings (using drawing tools)
- Mail merge or form fields
- Nested tables
- Headers and footers
Any of these above items, when included in the Rich Text Format document you submit to the Court, could easily result in the Court “Declining to Sign” your document due to their inability to clearly view the document within their judicial review and signing application.
Other elements may cause formatting problems, but still be accepted and signed by the Court. Those include, but may not be limited to, the use of:
- Auto-numbering (in HTML this causes an auto-indent, moving all text to right)
- Auto-bullet points (in HTML this causes an auto-indent, moving all text to right)
- Paragraph returns (in HTML a paragraph return is automatically double-spaced, use line breaks or CTRL + Enter instead)
If any of these elements are contained in your document, it may be signed and accepted, however you may find that the resulting PDF document docketed by the Court will contain extra spacing between lines, extra indents where you used auto-numbering or auto- bullets, or gaps between number and bullet lists and the preceding and proceeding paragraphs.