Jus­tices to take fil­ings on­line

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Brian Fung

Af­ter lag­ging be­hind other courts for years, the Supreme Court is fi­nally catch­ing up on a key tech­no­log­i­cal fea­ture that will be a boon to re­searchers, lawyers and an­a­lysts of all kinds. It’s mov­ing to adopt elec­tronic fil­ing.

The change will al­low the pub­lic to ac­cess le­gal fil­ings for fu­ture cases — free of charge. Be­gin­ning Nov. 13, the court will re­quire “par­ties who are rep­re­sented by coun­sel” to up­load dig­i­tal copies of their pa­per sub­mis­sions. Par­ties rep­re­sent­ing them­selves will have their fil­ings up­loaded by the court’s staff.

All those sub­mis­sions then will be en­tered into an on­line docket for each case, and they will be ac­ces­si­ble from the court’s home­page.

The move brings the Supreme Court fully into the in­ter­net age, ful­fill­ing a prom­ise out­lined by Chief Jus­tice John Roberts Jr. in 2014.

“While courts rou­tinely con­sider ev­i­dence and is­sue de­ci­sions con­cern­ing the lat­est tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, they have pro­ceeded cau­tiously when it comes to adopt­ing new tech­nolo­gies in cer­tain as­pects of their own op­er­a­tions,” he said at the time.

By “as soon as 2016,” Roberts said, the court would of­fer an on­line sys­tem that can han­dle all types of fil­ings, in­clud­ing pe­ti­tions, mo­tions and briefs.

Roberts’s tim­ing, it turns out, was not far off.

Vir­tu­ally all fed­eral courts are al­ready on board with elec­tronic sub­mis­sions. As early as 2001, some fed­eral court doc­u­ments were avail­able over the in­ter­net through a sys­tem known as PACER, or the Pub­lic Ac­cess to Court Elec­tronic Records.

PACER has its short­com­ings. It charges users a fee of $0.10 per page, which can add up if you’re going through hun­dreds or thou­sands of doc­u­ments. Be­cause fed­eral court records are con­sid­ered pub­lic do­main, those charges also can be a waste of money for re­searchers un­aware that doc­u­ments for a case al­ready have been down­loaded by some­body else and made avail­able for shar­ing. To cir­cum­vent this prob­lem, in­de­pen­dent re­searchers have built their own tool, RECAP, to save peo­ple money.

But the Supreme Court tool goes fur­ther, mak­ing all of its fil­ings free. For some, that’s not just a step for­ward — it’s a leapfrog ahead.

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