Supreme Court To Dip Its Toes Cautiously Into The Electronic Age With Free Electronic Filing System

from the it's-a-step dept

The Supreme Court is notoriously technology averse. It still refuses to allow video recording of oral arguments, leading to things like John Oliver's inspired Supreme Court dog stock video footage. On New Year's Eve, Chief Justice John Roberts released his 2014 Year-End Report, which focuses mainly on the plans to finally offer an electronic filing system for the Supreme Court. Much of the report details the long history of the Supreme Court being way behind the times technologically (it even adopted the pneumatic tube way late) -- and why he thinks this late adopter strategy is the appropriate one to take. He discusses the existing CM/ECF (Case Management / Electronic Case Filing) system, as well as PACER, the tool by which the public can access many of those documents. However, these systems do not cover the Supreme Court. And while they are completely antiquated (and a total pain to use), the Supreme Court apparently recognizes that being even further behind than that is a mistake. So it will very, very, very cautiously dip its toes into the electronic filing / electronic document access world... sometime in 2016 (yes, 2016, not 2015).
The Supreme Court is currently developing its own electronic filing system, which may be operational as soon as 2016. Once the system is implemented, all filings at the Court—petitions and responses to petitions, merits briefs, and all other types of motions and applications—will be available to the legal community and the public without cost on the Court’s website. Initially, the official filing of documents will continue to be on paper for all parties in all cases, with the electronic submission an additional requirement for parties represented by attorneys. Once the system has operated effectively for some time and the Supreme Court Bar has become well acquainted with it, the Court expects that electronic filing will be the official means for all parties represented by counsel, but paper filings will still be required. Parties proceeding pro se will continue to submit documents only on paper, and Court personnel will scan and upload those documents to the system for public access. The Court will provide more information about the details of the system, including the process for attorneys to register as authorized filers, in the coming months.
First, it's great that the Supreme Court is offering this -- even if it's being very cautious in its approach. Second, it's doubly great that (unlike PACER) it will be free for the public to use. PACER should be that way as well, but the court system has become too fat and happy from the fees.

Now, if we can just convince them to let cameras into the damn courtroom so the public can actually see how the Supreme Court works. To that end, at least, it appears that Congress may be gearing up to step in and force the Supreme Court to bring in the cameras, with multiple people in Congress criticizing the Court for still holding out.

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