Home » Posts tagged 'federal courts'
Tag Archives: federal courts
Greetings from DC.
Here’s a roundup with a bunch of recent postings from our INFOdocket site containing news and new resources of possible interest to the FGI community.
This is a small sample of what we post each day. Most of the following items were shared in the past week or so. We are also available on Twitter.
1. New From U.S. Census: 2008-2010 ACS 3-Year Estimates
5. New from U.S. Census: American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States Wall Map
7. U.S. Census: USA Counties (New Stats)
12. Campaign Finance: OpenSecrets.org Unveils New Interactive Features To Monitor 2012 Presidential Money Race
14. New From the C-SPAN Video Library: MP3 Audio Files Available for All Programs
We hope you find these resources useful. We hope you stop by or follow.
“Oyez! Oyez! Federal Court Opinions in FDsys” is One Of Many New Articles in October Issue of FDLP Connection
From the FDLP Connection Article:
With an interest in increasing public access to court opinions, the Judicial Conference approved a recommendation of its Court Administration and Case Management Committee for a pilot project to make lower Federal court opinions available through FDsys. The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has been working closely with the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) to make this a reality.
The United States Courts Opinions collection in FDsys contains opinions from the Federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. The pilot recently moved from the development phase to the test phase. Initial testing is with three courts: the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, United States District Court District of Rhode Island, and United States Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Florida. The number of courts participating in the pilot will rapidly expand to twelve and, after testing, to more than thirty. The content of this collection dates back to April 2004, though searchable electronic holdings for some courts may be incomplete for this earlier time period.
Other Feature Articles FDLP Connection (October 2011, Vol. 1. No. 3) Include:
A Cause for Celebration: Towson University Joins the FDLP
FDsys Training: Educating the Public on the Next Generation of Government Information Online
Making the Agency Connection: LSCM Working with Agencies to Benefit the FDLP
“Public Documents Our Specialty” – GPO’s Public Documents Library 1895–1971, Part 2: Changing Times
GPO Welcomes a New Librarian to its Staff
It’s That Time Again: The 2011 Biennial Survey of Depository Libraries
More than 160,000 new accounts in the federal judiciary’s Public Access to Electronic Court Records (PACER) service were established in fiscal year 2011. That’s an average of more than 3,000 new accounts each week.
The PACER service center, located in San Antonio, responded to about 165,000 telephone calls and about 42,000 emails in FY 2011. More than one-third of the existing 1.3 million PACER accounts were active over the course of the fiscal year that ends September 30, 2011.
GPO has announced that it is partnering with the Federal Judiciary to create a one-year pilot program providing free public access to court opinions through GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys).
This seems to be a laudable project, but it is important to note that this is not free access to PACER. PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) is a fee-based service of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.
Document Coverage. The GPO pilot project will only provide access to court opinions. PACER provides access to court opinions and more:
- a Case Locator service (a national index for U.S. district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts)
- listings of all parties and participants including judges, attorneys and trustees
- compilations of case related information such as cause of action, nature of suit and dollar demand
- chronologies of dates of case events entered in the case record
- A claims registry
- A listing of new cases each day in all courts
- Judgments or case status
Court Coverage.The GPO project will begin by providing access to 12 courts and expand to 42 when fully implemented. PACER provides access to 216 federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts.
The GPO project will provide free access to opinions from selected courts. PACER provides only limited free access. Although the GPO announcement says, “Free access to opinions in all Federal courts is currently available via the Judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records service (PACER),” this is not strictly true. PACER charges for each search and for each page of documents retrieved and then “waives” the first $10 of charges in each quarterly billing cycle. (Expanded PACER Fee Waiver.) The PACER fee schedule includes price caps and exceptions making it is hard for any particular user to accurately predict whether any particular information need can be met for free or if a large fee will be imposed. As noted here and here, and here, fees can mount up quickly, restrict use, and limit access.
Document Formats. Although the GPO announcement is not explicit about the formats of documents that it will make a available, FDsys typically makes documents available in PDF and plain text. PACER makes information available in PDF, HTML, and (apparently) plain text output from databases. (See FAQ ‘How do you determine what a “page” is for billing purposes?’) As noted here, formats matter and neither GPO nor PACER have committed to providing structured, tagged, machine-actionable formats.
Court decisions are a vital part of public information. One recent survey listed PACER access as third in a list of the “Most Wanted Federal Documents.” (Show Us the Data: Most Wanted Federal Documents, By Center for Democracy & Technology & OpenTheGovernment.org, March 2009.) If the GPO pilot project is successful, I would hope that it could expand to include more courts and more of the content that is now available through PACER.
It is my understanding, however, that there was a PACER presentation at the spring Depository Library Council meeting and the Council is working on a recommendation to expand a PACER fee waiver in depository libraries. Although I do not have the details of that proposal, it certainly sounds like an attempt to re-intermediate libraries in an age of disintermediation. Such attempts usually fail. (See FGI response to Ithaka draft values proposition for the FDLP and Public comments on Ithaka FDLP Modeling Project draft documents (II) for more on the disintermediation issue.)
A previous PACER free pilot project was stopped abruptly when officials got upset that their system was being used too much. (Is PACER a portent of things to come?.) A similar attempt by GPO to provide a service for free inside depository library buildings and charging a fee for that same service outside those buildings failed. (This was the early days of the FDsys predecessor, GPO Access; see Government Information in the Digital Age: The Once and Future Federal Depository Library Program.) The attempt by the Library of Congress to produce a restricted access “e-LCSH” was apparently abandoned.
The current PACER FAQ says that “information gathered from the PACER system is a matter of public record and may be reproduced without permission” but also warns that “misuse” (which “includes, but is not limited to, using an automated process to repeatedly access those portions of the PACER application that do not assess a fee”) “is strictly prohibited and may result in criminal prosecution or civil action.” It seems clear that the courts continue to resist true free access to this information. We can only hope that the current GPO/FDsys project will help turn that attitude around.
GPO & Federal Judiciary Enhance Public Access To Federal Court Opinions Government Printing Office, Press Release, May 4, 2011 No. 11-23.
The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and the Federal Judiciary are launching a one- year pilot program providing free public access to court opinions through GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). The joint project was approved by the Judicial Conference of the United States and GPO’s Congressional oversight committee, the Joint Committee on Printing. When fully implemented, the pilot will include up to 42 courts. The Judiciary continually has sought ways to enhance public access to court opinions. Free access to opinions in all Federal courts is currently available via the Judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records service (PACER). Building on that success, staff from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts met with GPO management to explore making opinions available through FDsys, which can provide the public with a robust search engine that can search common threads across opinions and courts. The public will be able to access court opinions in the next several months through GPO’s Federal Digital System: www.fdsys.gov