The Use of Rich Text Format (.rtf) and Fixing of RTF Formatting Problems

The issue that commonly requires support in the form of help by the attorneys and their staff is to format their documents in Rich Text Format (.rtf) to submit them for the court’s function to proceed smoothly. Most people unknowingly create seamless Rich Text Format documents that are acceptable and easily read by any word processing software. However, the Utah Courts have brought in formatting issues to be taken care of by the filer and do not accept general Rich Text Format documents. It is necessary to understand the rationale behind the Court’s requirement of Rich Text Format documents and the evolution of the formatting issues.

The court’s requirement of the Rich Text Format (.rtf) documents for document filing:
Whenever there is a requirement of the documents to be signed and processed by the court clerk or Judge, the requirement for the Rich Text Format (.rtf) arises. Following are the examples of such documents:

  • The Order proposals
  • The proposed Judgments
  • Writs of embellishment
  • Conventional certificates

The purpose behind asking for these documents in the Rich Text Format (.rtf) is that the court is able to edit these documents prior to being signed with the use of the judicial review and signature software. It is a very well-known fact that the documents in PDF format cannot be edited without specific tools and software.
Once the RTF documents are reviewed, corrected and approved, it becomes easy for the court to use their judicial signature software and place the signature stamp on them.

The requirement of the court on Rich Text Format (.rtf) and not Word (.doc/.docx) or WordPerfect (.wps)
The common word processing platforms like Word, WordPerfect, OpenOffice, WordPad, NotePad etc. can easily generate or view the Rich Text Format, which happens to be a universal file format. Thus, the attorneys can continue to use whatever processing software they have on their computers and are comfortable with. They need not buy or procure specific software in order to submit the documents in RTF.

The processing of documents submitted in Rich Text Format by the court
For the internal processing convenience of reviewing documents, signing them and filing or storing them in dockets, the courts have got their own software developed for use by court clerical staff and judges. The browser based software, just like Internet explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome allows the clerical staff or the judge to view the document using their own browser. In order to display the RTF document for the clerical staff and judge and to make the editing tools accessible to them, the court must convert the RTF document to HTML. Thus, the document actually viewed by the clerk or Judge is not the RTF document, but the HTML one.
As soon as the document is reviewed, corrected and approved, the court software is used to place a signature stamp on the document. The processing of the document takes place next, making the document ready for record, and utilizes the court’s document management system for placing the record in permanent storage. This process is facilitated by the conversion of the document from HTML to a final PDF. The PDF version of the document forms a part of the permanent storage and is electronically distributed to the attorneys concerned with the case.

The poorly formatted documents result in signing once or are devoid of signatures
It can be assumed for a moment that the process described above, that talks about converting the documents from RTF to HTML, placing the digital signatures and then converting to PDF again is not perfect.
The RTF to HTML conversion brings out the formatting problems that occur due to certain characteristics that do not convert to HTML. Here are a few of them:

  • Inserted images
  • Inserted drawings
  • Use of drawing tools
  • Use of text boxes
  • Use of Headers and Footers
  • Columns in WordPerfect
  • Merging mail
  • Form fields
  • Nesting of tables

If the court is not able to clearly understand or view the submitted document due to formatting problems arising out of the use of above characteristics in the HTML conversion, they will simply “Decline to Sign” your document.
Some other characteristics may cause formatting issues, but still may be accepted and signed by the court. Some of them are:

  • Auto numbering and bullet points: These are right indented in HTML resulting in all text moving to the right.
  • Paragraph returns: These are double-spaced in HTML, and it is advisable to make use of line breaks instead.

With the use of these characteristics, there are chances that your document is signed and accepted. However the resulting PDF documents may have the ill effects of the formatting like double line spacing, extra indents, text on the right, unwanted gaps etc.