Thursday, September 25, 2003

More on electronic filing in federal court

From this press release about the recent meeting of the Judicial Conference of the United States:

"In September 2001, the Conference adopted a policy for remote public electronic access to civil, bankruptcy, and appellate case files. But at that time it decided not to allow for similar access to criminal case files. In March 2002, the Conference established a pilot program for 10 district courts and one appellate court to allow Internet access to criminal case files.

The Federal Judicial Center has studied the experience of the pilot courts and found no evidence of harm to any individual and also found that a majority of those interviewed in the pilot courts —judges, court staff, and counsel — extolled the advantages of electronic access. The Conference Committees on Court Administration and Case Management, Criminal Law, and Defender Services will work together in drafting appropriate implementation guidance for the courts. The pilot program will continue access during the implementation period.

Once implemented, the policy requires that certain personal identifier information should be partially redacted by the filer of the document, whether it is filed electronically or in paper form. For example, Social Security and financial account numbers should be reported as the last four digits only and the names of minor children should be listed only by their initials. This is the policy currently in effect for civil cases.

Remote access to federal court files has been made possible by the Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system, which is in the process of being implemented throughout the federal courts. As of September 1, 2003, 25 district courts and 60 bankruptcy courts are using the system. More than 10 million cases are on the CM/ECF system and more than 40,000 attorneys and others have filed documents over the Internet. Electronic access to these documents is available through the Public Access to Court Electronics Records (PACER) program."

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