Power Outage For Federal Court Computer System Screws Up Three Months Worth Of Job Applications?!?

from the how-is-that-possible? dept

For years, we’ve talked about what a total joke the federal courts’ PACER system is. That’s the computer system the federal courts use for accessing court documents. It acts like it was designed in about 1998 and hasn’t been touched since (and even when it was designed, it wasn’t designed well). But that’s not the only fucked up computer system that the federal courts use. A few years back when I was an expert witness in a federal case, I had to make use of a different US court website just to get paid by the government — and while it’s been a few years, I still remember that it required you to use Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer! It had lots of other issues as well.

By now you may have realized that every computer system in the federal court system seems to be antiquated and poorly designed. And now we’ve got even more evidence of that. On Friday, the federal court system announced that a “power outage” probably fucked up clerkship and staff attorney applications going back three months.

Law school students and graduates who filed applications for federal court clerkships and staff attorney positions from June 7 to Aug. 31, 2019 using the OSCAR system may have to refile some documents in their applications. Notifications and instructions for refiling will be sent early next week.

Documents filed during that period may have been affected by a major power failure at one of the Judiciary?s service providers. The electrical outage affected the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR), which is used to process clerkship and staff attorney applications. The OSCAR system is back up and running.

Only applications filed during the period June 7 to Aug. 31 were affected. Judges and staff attorney offices that accepted applications through the OSCAR system during this period also are being notified.

Okay, sure, power outages happen. But… how is it possible that three months worth of applications and documents may be messed up from a single power outage? What sort of backup system are they running over there? I get that federal computer systems are antiquated, but this makes literally no sense at all. At some point in the last two decades, someone should have designed a computer system that doesn’t lose documents in the event of a power outage. Or, at the very least, it should have only lost documents that were filed in like the split second prior to the power outage.

Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder if PACER is honestly “the best” our federal court system can do.

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Comments on “Power Outage For Federal Court Computer System Screws Up Three Months Worth Of Job Applications?!?”

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20 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

A few years back when I was an expert witness in a federal case, I had to make use of a different US court website just to get paid by the government

People bitch about how the USA remains reliant on checks, instead of jumping onto new technology, but it would have been a hell of a lot easier to pick one up on your way out (had it been an option). Careful what you wish for… (see also South Korea and ActiveX)

ECA (profile) says:

not the worst..

Between The pentagon and the IRS, they have the oldest Sill in use computers. Talking about using COBAL 1, and assembler language.
Congress has been trying to get the pentagon to supply records of expenses, and they cant even print them…and updating the system and data transfer is said to take Years..
The IRS has no Storage space…nothing even considered recent. and we wonder HOW corps get away with the crap they do. Easier to go after Citizens then try to get Anything out of the machine.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The funny part of this..
is the SAVE function. and Where is the storage?
Unless it FRIED the storage, which should be Allot larger then a few months to Job applications..
Something seems abit off.

Whats the odds they had a pissed-off employee or the Software maker set a bomb in programming IF they werent paid monthly??

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

PS..
How many companies have learned the lesson or having 1 Copy of anything on a computer device? FIRST rule 1-3 backups..Copies sent other places. Never leave your music or Pictures on a computer ONLY..(love DVD still)

UPS anyone?? Uninterruptible power supply…Even a cheap one. can save your system and allow for PROPER shut down..5 minutes at most.

to many holes in this..
And probably someone not doing the job. Or they fired the person..

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Problem with that, is HIRE a person to be responsible..That knows WHAT/HOW to do things..and respect that..
Sony didnt, and got hacked in brazil, no updates/upgrades for years to fix/adjust things..
Sysop/admin jobs and pay them well..

Corps pay others to do the work, and be responsible, but dont get the idea of Advancement/improving.

TRX (profile) says:

this makes literally no sense at all.

Sure it does. "It looks there might be evidence of preference or prejudice in our hiring system, so, ‘Oops, computer problem!’ will dispose of the evidence."

There are multiple Federal guidelines for computers, backups, data retention, accountability, and so forth, all of which had to be violated for something like that to happen by accident… or one person doing it deliberately. Occam’s Razor favors the simplest theory.

Schlomo McGill says:

Rampant ignorance leads to all sorts of conspiracy theories. Tom had it right. The provider is Simplicity, and the hosting service that had the failure was Amazon Web Services. The documents lost were certain attachments (recommendation letters) that had to be re-uploaded. The choice was to either wipe out everything after a certain point in time backup or just to lose some recommendation letters going back to unaffected storage. It happened during the busiest time of the year, so the least disruptive fix was to just ask for recommendation letters to be re-uploaded.

Unfortunately, about 90% of what is said on this site about PACER is pure speculation. But I’m sure it sells clicks.

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