California Judicial Branch Fillable Court Forms – Our Print Mystery Solved

The Black Streaks (my least favorite Emo band)

Black streaks or smudges started to manifest on some of the paper copies of fillable court forms printed at ACLL.  California legal system participants, ever have this problem?  You are using the California Judicial Branch’s website to complete one of the many California Judicial Council’s fillable forms.  No problem entering the information.  Looks great on the screen – nice and clear.  You print a paper copy for the court or your file and on the page appears large black smears (see image.)  What goes?

Without any warning, some of our patrons, who use the Alameda County Law Library‘s public computer network to complete their Judicial Council forms, started to experience these smudges after spending time and effort editing the forms online. Their hard work was ruined.  The reason this problem popped up remained a mystery to the Reference Desk staff.  It was not the network and printing software nor a problem with the court’s website.  We had the Alameda County IT Department dig into the problem.  Thanks to ITD’s Ernest, the mystery has been solved.

It turns out it was caused by a recent Adobe Reader software upgrade.  The court site recommends that people use the freely available Adobe Reader software to edit the fillable forms.   Recent changes to the software caused problems for users of a number of different internet sites’ fillable forms.

The solution

If you have experienced this black smudge/smear problem on the California courts’ or other websites, here is a solution –

Simply stated – In Adobe Reader > Select Edit > Select Preferences > Click on Security Enhanced option from the Categories list > then click on the Enable Protected Mode at startup box to disable this setting option.

Not so simply stated step-by-step instructions –

  • You will need to reset a default setting for Adobe Reader.  (The court website recommends you download the free Adobe Reader to edit the online forms.)
  • Your internet browser’s search screen will present different options and icons in different displays so the following steps are general advice only.
  • The court’s website has information on how to use its fillable forms (including downloading the forms to Adobe Reader) – California Judicial Branch,  Forms – How to Fill
  • When using some of the internet browsers, the form first appears in a Viewer. Once you have your selected form on your browser screen in Viewer mode, you will want to bring it up or change it to a fillable form.  Look for the icon or option to download.  When using the Firefox browser it looks like this – 
  • Click on the icon or select the download option.  The form will reappear on your screen with the editable fields highlighted in blue.  Once you have the document in Adobe Reader (AND BEFORE TYPING ANY INFORMATION) you proceed with the needed changes.
  • Uncheck the Enabled Protected Mode at startup box within Adobe Acrobat Reader that is located under the Edit tab using the following steps:

  • Select Edit
  • Select Preferences  on the drop-down menu that appears.
  • Click on Security Enhanced option from the Categories list then click on the Enable Protected Mode at startup box to disable this option.

Why this setting causes the streaks when the document is printed remains a mystery but not one for which the answer needs to be discovered.  Best left to the tech geeks.  I guess you could say it is the importance of knowing Ernest.

The California Judicial Branch’s web pages do not support the use of all browsers and their PDF readers.  More software companies are developing their own internet website browsing and viewing software.  For more information on using the Judicial Council’s PDF forms, see Viewing PDF Files


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