AppellaTech: Linking to Websites in Your Brief

By Derek Bauman

I've written two articles about whether and how to hyperlink to the record and legal resources in your brief.  I thought it would be useful to discuss citing and linking to websites, generally, as well. Robert Debose created an excellent CLE some years back on whether to cite websites such as Wikipedia in appellate briefs.  I cannot improve upon that, so I am not going to try. Instead, I'm going to focus on the particulars of how best to approach citing and linking to briefs once you have determined that it is appropriate to include the cites.

The main problem you are faced with is that, when you upload your brief to the court's filing portal, all of the hyperlinks that you inserted into your brief are stripped out. So if you only embed your hyperlinks into the text (as I have done in the paragraph above), no one at the court will ever know that you added a hyperlink or what the link was supposed to show.

Instead, if you want the reader to look at a particular link, the web address for that link must appear as text within your brief. This leads to its own problem. Many addresses for web pages are quite lengthy.

For example, if you have http://www.texasbarcle.com/CLE/AABuy0.asp?sProductType=AR&lID=136070 written in your brief, anyone who wants to view that link has to either manually type in that address or copy it from the brief and paste in into their web browser. I'm not saying that won't happen, but I expect you know it is going to take more than simple curiosity for someone to decide to go through that process.

To improve your chances of someone going through that effort, you need a shorter link. As it happens, there are some ways to accomplish this.

One example is a website called bitly.com. You enter the web address you want to cite to, and it gives you a much shorter version of that link. The Texas Bar CLE link I gave as an example becomes: http://bit.ly/2tEHzY0.

Unfortunately, this presents another problem. With the full link, the reader is provided with some useful information about what the link will show them. Providing the link to the Texas Bar CLE website will indicate that the link is for a CLE. A link to chron.com will tell the reader you're linking to a news article. And a link to youtube.com will tell the reader that you probably want them to watch a cat video.

The shortened link does not provide any clues about the content of the link. While it will make it easier for the reader to go through the effort of viewing your link, it may take away some of the confidence that the linked information will be useful.

To solve this, I recommend adding a parenthetical after the link describing the website and the information it is meant to provide. For example: "http://bit.ly/2tEHzY0 (A Texas Bar CLE questioning whether I should have included this link in this brief in the first place)."

Now you have a link that is easier for the reader to access and that still provides the context information to encourage the reader to go through the effort.

If you are citing to a lengthy article, but want to emphasize a certain passage, there's a way to do that and also make your link short. I've mentioned before a website called TLDRify. You can use that website to highlight a certain passage on a website and get a link that will take the reader to that web page and highlight the relevant passage for them.

Finally, there's a video equivalent to this on YouTube as well. If you want to cite to a video, but the relevant portion is not at the beginning, you can follow these instructions to start the linked video at the desired place. As we all know, sometimes the best segment of a cat being adorable comes in the middle of the compilation video.