Recent amendments to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma’s Rule 1.200 and other notable changes: A shift in access to unpublished opinions

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2024 amendment: Unveiling unpublished opinions

The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s recent amendment to Rule 1.200 on February 26, 2024, continues the court’s shift towards judicial modernization and transparency, allowing unpublished opinions of the Court of Civil Appeals to be accessible on the Oklahoma State Courts Network (OSCN) post-mandate.

Specifically, the rule now states: “Opinions of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals not designated for official publication may be viewable on the Oklahoma State Courts Network. An unpublished opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals shall not be viewable on the web site until mandate has issued in the matter. An unpublished opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals viewable on the web site is governed by Rule 1.200(c) and is accorded no precedential value.”

While these opinions are not to hold precedential value, they are crucial for attorneys and litigants seeking comprehensive judicial insights. This modification signifies yet another move toward enhancing the legal profession’s ability to review a broader spectrum of judicial reasoning and outcomes. It reflects a deliberate effort to align the state’s judicial transparency with evolving digital norms, ensuring that practitioners have comprehensive access to the courts’ decisions.

Other recent developments in appellate rules

Since 2019, the Oklahoma Supreme Court amended several of its rules, reflecting an ongoing effort to modernize and clarify appellate court procedures. Notable amendments for civil litigants include:

  • Rule 1.4(c) (amended May 3, 2021): Clarifies filing procedures for petitions, emphasizing that when using a third-party carrier for filing mailed petitions, the inclusion of the cost deposit or pauper’s affidavit is mandatory for the document to be considered timely filed. The rule also clarifies, “The determination of whether or not a petition in error is timely will be made by the Supreme Court.” In other words, the court clerk will accept a petition even if it does not comply with the timely inclusion of the cost deposit or pauper’s affidavit, but the court may subsequently dismiss for untimeliness.
    • Relatedly, the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision in Owens v. Owens in 2023 is also emblematic of the court’s desire to create transparency with appellate procedures while also increasing efficiency.1 In Owens, the court overruled previous precedent which had allowed proof of actual notice of a judgment to start the appeal clock for a petition in error, noting that the court is ill-equipped to conduct the fact-specific inquiry of actual notice. Instead, the Owens court held that when a petition in error is presented to the court, timeliness will be determined by record notice of when the materials were filed with the court and on file in the trial court record.
  • Rule 1.5 (amended June 27, 2022): Mandates that in actions before the Supreme Court or Court of Civil Appeals, corporate entities must be represented by licensed counsel.
  • Rule 1.11 (amended November 14, 2022): Specifies that footnotes in briefs “shall” be at least size 11-point font and “may” be single spaced. The rule also warns that substantive arguments should not be raised in a footnote, or the party risks the brief being stricken or the footnote disregarded.
  • Rule 1.21(a) (amended June 28, 2021): Directs that certain documents, such as minute orders, summary orders, docket entries, or other informal statements, do not constitute appealable orders. This change was made, in part, to provide clarity on what may trigger an appellate timeline.
    • The court affirmed this rule in Laubach v. Laubach, explicitly stating that “written instruments titled ‘court minute,’ ‘minute order,’ ‘minute,’ or ‘summary order’ cannot meet the definition of an order which triggers the procedural time limits for appeal, regardless of their substance, content, for length.”2
  • Rule 1.200(c) (amended June 27, 2022): Allows practitioners to cite unpublished opinions from the Court of Civil Appeals as persuasive authority, provided they include a copy or hyperlink to the opinion.
  • Rule 1.200(c) (amended March 6, 2023): Mandates that no party shall cite to unpublished opinions from the Court of Civil Appeals in appellate briefing. The modification clarifies when these cases can be cited in the trial court (if no published appellate opinions would serve as well), and requires that the citation must include a parenthetical noting it is unpublished, in addition to providing a copy or hyperlink to the opinion.

These changes, alongside the 2024 amendment to Rule 1.200, signify a progressive adaptation to digital norms and a commitment to clarity in legal processes, especially as it relates to the accessibility of unpublished opinions.

Conclusion

The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s rule amendments, culminating in the most recent change to Rule 1.200 in 2024, reflect a modernizing judiciary that values accessibility, transparency, and procedural clarity. Attorneys must navigate these changes with a keen understanding of their implications, ensuring that their practices align and comply with the evolving jurisprudential landscape.


1 Owens v. Owens, 2023 OK 12, ¶ 26, 529 P.3d 905, 913.
2 Laubach v. Laubach, 2022 OK 78, ¶ 14.