Friday, July 31, 2015
Citing document numbers
How do you cite document numbers? Before you answer, let me explain what I’m talking about.
The federal judiciary has a system that allows users to file documents in cases electronically—the Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system. Each document filed in the CM/ECF system is given a document number, which is placed at the top of each page of the document. In the Southern District of Florida, the document number is blue. Some lawyers might refer to a document number as a docket-entry number; others might refer to it as an ECF number.
In any given filing, you may choose to refer to a document number for a particular reason. For example, in your motion for an extension of time to file a response to the amended complaint, you might refer to the document number of the amended complaint, to assist the reader to quickly and easily find the amended complaint on the docket.
If you’re citing the document number, how do you do that?
There are three main contenders:
The first is “D.E.” or some variant thereof, such as “DE”. (For present purposes, let’s put to the side what comes after the D.E.—e.g., “No.” or “#”. Let’s also put to the side whether you enclose “D.E.” in parentheses or brackets, or not at all. That’s a debate for another day.) This is the most well-established way of citing document numbers in the Southern District of Florida. If you cite document numbers this way, everybody will know what you’re talking about.
The second is “ECF”. If you meticulously follow the Bluebook, this is your choice.
Last is “Dkt.” I’d refer to this as “New York style,” because many judges in New York seem to cite document numbers using this method. If you’re into abbreviations, perhaps New York style is for you. In the Southern District of Florida, however, you’d be in a strong minority.