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.

Filed Under: clerkship, computer system, federal courts, it, job applications, oscar, power outage, us courts


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  1. icon
    Gary (profile), 9 Sep 2019 @ 10:24am

    Got it all on tape!

    They have a big box of tape backups, they change the tapes pretty much every day. Just can't seem to find one that got a good backup. One of these must work. Huh, guess the drive was bad.
    Just be glad they recovered as mush as they did...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    tom (profile), 9 Sep 2019 @ 11:02am

    To be fair, TFA does mention 'service provider' as the one suffering the outage and loss. But all that really does is add questions about who's responsibility it is to make sure the service provider has proper backup/recovery processes. Also maybe a FIOA request to find out who said service provider is so we know who to avoid using.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2019 @ 11:16am

    nothing like having a good back up system and this is nothing like having a good back up system!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2019 @ 11:32am

    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)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    ECA (profile), 9 Sep 2019 @ 11:58am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2019 @ 12:03pm

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

    One imagines that it's hard for the federal the court system to hire the best people...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    TKnarr (profile), 9 Sep 2019 @ 12:10pm

    The systems aren't the best the Federal court system can do. They're the best the minimum-wage coders in the off-shore body shops the Tier 1 contractors the Federal court system contracted with to design and build the systems could do. And those systems did their job, after all those contractors got paid didn't they?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    ECA (profile), 9 Sep 2019 @ 3:12pm

    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??

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    bob, 9 Sep 2019 @ 3:15pm

    Re:

    I agree it's not the best they can do. It's the best they are willing to pay for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    ECA (profile), 9 Sep 2019 @ 3:19pm

    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..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Daydream, 9 Sep 2019 @ 4:53pm

    So...who thinks that they're lying through their teeth and that the 'power outage' was really just 'erasing a lot of stuff to hide the destruction of incriminating evidence'?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2019 @ 7:44pm

    RAM: The fastest 'storage' solution available on the market today.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 Sep 2019 @ 12:32am

    Re: Got it all on tape!

    Oh honey you think they use tapes??

    Think of all the overtime for the IT guy to feed floppy after floppy into the drive after hours...

    They woudl have been fine if the new receptionist hadn't used one of the discs as a coaster.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    TRX, 10 Sep 2019 @ 5:09am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    bob, 10 Sep 2019 @ 10:01am

    Re:

    Can't rule out your theory so it's quite possible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    ECA (profile), 10 Sep 2019 @ 12:18pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2019 @ 11:29am

    The reason for the "outage" is all the fake applicants that were given jobs.

    These people don't exist, and the money was going to go directly to court staff bank accounts.

    They were about to get caught and deleted 3 months of word documents and other files to hide their tracks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    ECA (profile), 11 Sep 2019 @ 11:33am

    Re:

    homer Simpson..
    DOH!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    ECA (profile), 11 Sep 2019 @ 10:02pm

    Wonder..

    Who were the NEXT up and coming candidates??
    And what are the odds they could erase THEM, without showing the Whole thing Died..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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