History…signed with Adobe products: US District Court Judge issues first digitally signed judicial order

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For the first time in history, the Honorable John M. Facciola, Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, signed a judicial order, not with paper and pen, but with a digital signature!  Press release here.


Judge Facciola viewing his just-digitally signed order in Adobe Acrobat.  Courtesy National Notary Association (NNA). 

Talk about setting precedent–while electronic filing has been required for some time, orders are typically printed out, signed, and then re-scanned into systems for filing.  Not until now has there been such a vote of confidence in the legal significance and weight of a digital signature.  By keeping the generation, signing and filing of the order completely electronic, the process is made much more efficient, potentially driving costs down and making the court’s systems work more effectively.  This is the latest example of organizations understanding not only the integrity and authenticity benefits of digital signatures, but the resource savings also.  Remember, it’s not so much the signature event that consumes time and money–it’s the processes around it.

A fully electronic filing system – that includes electronic signatures – makes sense for America’s courts, Facciola said. “This is the next logical development in the transition from paper to electronic filing,” Facciola continued. “Implementing electronic signatures will keep the court’s processes consistent and contemporary with the actual practices of the society the court serves. We can hope that it will be universally accepted by all those who have to rely on the contents of an electronic document that is in the court’s electronic filing system.”

A consortium of companies and organizations collaborated with the US District Court to make this happen, including several members of Adobe’s Security Partner Community. The National Notary Association provided identification and authentication (I&A) duties and was the lead on this project, using their Trusted Enrollment Agent program. SAIC manages the NNA’s credentialing service and was the lead orchestrator of the project. The judge’s medium assurance, Federal Bridge cross-certified signing credential was provided by VeriSign, and trusted by Adobe’s new Approved Trust List (AATL) program. The signing credential, in turn, was protected by a USB token provided by SafeNet, and the trusted timestamp associated with the signature provided by ChosenSecurity in their capacity as an automatically trusted Certified Document Services Provider. Finally, the actual PDF order was signed in Adobe Acrobat 9.1.


Courtesy SAIC


From left to right: Bill Anderson (NNA), Jacques Francoeur (SAIC), Ed Chase (Adobe), Magistrate Facciola, Nick Blend (US District Courts), Anton Le (US District Courts), Elaine Wright (NNA – Trusted Enrollment Agent™). Courtesy NNA.

“This significant milestone reaffirms that digital signatures offer greater assurances than traditionally signed documents, as they meet higher authentication standards and are protected throughout the document lifecycle,” said John Landwehr, director of Security Solutions and Strategy, Adobe. “Signers and recipients alike can easily and confidently validate signatures using the free Adobe Reader deployed on millions of desktops around the world. As a result, documents can be processed more quickly and more securely, in a cost-effective manner.”

Click here to see a signed judicial memo from Judge Facciola.  The document should automatically validate (with a green checkmark) if you are opening the document in Adobe Reader or Acrobat 9.x and above.  If not, be sure to check out the Adobe Approved Trust List FAQ here.

For more information about digital signatures in Adobe products and our Security Partner Community, please visit the following links:


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Posted on 09-21-2009


  • […] America and around the world.  Among the presenters is US District Magistrate Judge John Facciola, who was the first to digitally sign a judicial order, as well as a number of other key industry, legal, and government personalities, all of whom have […]

  • By verisign ssl encryption - 10:34 AM on September 26, 2011  

    This is a really interesting post and it symbolises a big difference to judicial orders as long as there are no hiccups further down the line. Using digital signatures, it means that things can be done a lot quicker and just this month, a news report has suggested judges at Kane County are issuing court orders faster than ever because of it.