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Classroom Deliberation: Should the United States Senate Conduct Confirmation Hearings for a Supreme Court Vacancy in a Presidential Election Year?

As part of C-SPAN’s “Classroom Deliberations” site (produced by C-SPAN’s Senior Fellows, designed to engage students in classroom deliberations about current issues being debated in the United States) a new lesson:

  • Should the United States Senate Conduct Confirmation Hearings for a Supreme Court Vacancy in a Presidential Election Year?

    Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13th, 2016, the Republican controlled Senate and leading Republican presidential candidates stated that a Supreme Court vacancy which occurs in the same calendar year as a presidential election should be left vacant until the newly elected President can make a nomination. President Obama believes the President has a Constitutional responsibility to make a nomination when a vacancy occurs.

    Democratic Senators, currently in the minority, argue that no Supreme Court nominee sent to the Judiciary Committee by a sitting President in the last 100 years has been denied a hearing. Senate Republicans argue that Democrats are on record in the past as having supported the idea of not holding hearings on potential candidates nominated by President Bush in the last year of his Presidency.

    Is the Senate violating its Constitutional responsibility to provide “Advice and Consent” to President Obama’s nominee?

    Should a lame duck president be allowed to make a lifetime appointment in the final months of their administration?

Oyez Supreme Court Archive up for sale

This is a sad state of affairs IMHO. The gentleman who runs Oyez, the privately-run US Supreme Court audio archive, is set to retire. But it seems that he wants to sell the database for $1million dollars! He unironically doesn’t want to sell it to a private company because “They’ll put it behind a paywall and charge people to use it,” and “That’s against my values.” Harvard Law School has offered to take over the operating costs of the service. Here’s hoping that there’s a kickstarter campaign or some such that will assure that the public domain content remains in the public domain!

It’s not on Craigslist yet, but Jerry Goldman says options are narrowing for Oyez.org, the private online archive of Supreme Court materials he has been building since the early 1990s and providing free to the public. Mr. Goldman, 70 years old, retires from teaching in May, and when he goes so does Oyez, currently hosted at Chicago-Kent College of Law.

The project, which has two full-time staff members and several student employees, costs between $300,000 and $500,000 annually to operate, he says.

The sticking point, however, isn’t the annual budget; Harvard Law School, for one, has offered to pick up the operating cost. But Mr. Goldman also wants to be paid for the sweat he’s put into his baby–or at least the intellectual property it represents—something he estimates is worth well over $1 million.

via Future of Oyez Supreme Court Archive Hangs in the Balance – Law Blog – WSJ.

Supreme Court Website Addresses link-rot and content-drift

The Supreme Court has announced two important changes to its website. The Court will now highlight changes to slip opinions and the Court will now attempt to preserve web-based content cited in Court opinions. These website enhancements address two digital preservation problems: changes to content over time, known as “content-drift”, and content being deleted or moved, called “link-rot.”

Here is the text of the two announcements, which appeared under the “What’s New” section of the Court’s homepage:

Beginning with the October Term 2015, postrelease edits to slip opinions on the Court’s website will be highlighted and the date they occur will be noted. The date of any revision will be listed in a new “Revised” column on the charts of Opinions, In-Chambers Opinions, and Opinions Related to Orders under the “Opinions” tab on the website. The location of a revision will be highlighted in the opinion. When a cursor is placed over a highlighted section, a dialog box will open to show both old and new text. See Sample Opinions” for an example of how postrelease edits will appear on the website.

The Court’s Office of Information Technology is collaborating with the Library, the Reporter of Decisions’ Office, and the Clerk’s Office to preserve web-based content cited in Court opinions. To address the problem of “link rot,” where internet material cited in Court opinions may change or cease to exist, web-based content included in Court opinions from the 2005 Term forward is being made available on the Court’s website. Hard copies will continue to be retained in the case files by the Clerk’s Office. See “Internet Sources Cited in Opinions.”

An article in the New York Times puts these changes into context:

  • Supreme Court Plans to Highlight Revisions in Its Opinions, By ADAM LIPTAKOCT. New York Times (Oct. 5, 2015).

    The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would disclose after-the-fact changes to its opinions, a common practice that had garnered little attention until a law professor at Harvard wrote about it last year.

    The court also took steps to address “link rot” in its decisions. A study last year found that nearly half of hyperlinks in Supreme Court opinions no longer work.

Supreme Court Will Bypass PACER, Put Its Filings Online For Free

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts announced in his year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary that The Supreme Court is developing an “electronic filing system” similar to PACER, which, once made public in 2016, will make all filings at the Court available to the legal community and the public on the Court’s website and (unlike PACER) without fees. Filings include petitions and responses to petitions, merits briefs, and all other types of motions and applications.

The New York Times notes that:

Chief Justice Roberts did not explain why the Supreme Court chose to create its own system rather than adopt the existing one….

The court made modest improvements to its website in October, but it still directs users to a site maintained by the American Bar Association for copies of briefs in the roughly 70 cases it agrees to hear each year. [See link On-Line MERITS BRIEFS on Case Documents page.] It can be hard to find electronic copies of other materials, including, notably, the more than 7,000 petitions seeking review filed each year.
[Supreme Court, in Big Leap, Plans to Put Filings Online, By Adam Liptak, New York Times (Dec. 31, 2014).]

The Chief Justice noted that:

The judiciary has a special duty to ensure, as a fundamental matter of equal access to justice, that its case filing process is readily accessible to the entire population, from the most tech-savvy to the most tech-intimidated.

For background on PACER, see: PACER and EDGAR.

Supreme Court reenactments with dogs: so wrong but so right!

John Oliver is doing great — and hilarious — journalistic work. In this segment, he not only takes on the serious issue of why the Supreme Court doesn’t allow video cameras during oral arguments (Scalia’s argument against cameras is just lame excuse given the way C-SPAN currently covers Congress), but gives other news outlets the tools to cover the Supreme Court in a hilarious way that will hopefully cause the Supreme Court to change its stance on video cameras out of embarrassment.



Real Animals, Fake Paws Footage:



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