“At a time when almost every other federal court has a readily accessible electronic database, why can’t the Supreme Court?”
That was how I ended a post from August 2014. By then, it was already long past time for the Supreme Court to develop something like the PACER electronic docket system that has operated for many years in the lower federal courts.
Actually, #PACER4SCOTUS would be setting our sights too low, since the Court has an even higher obligation to promote transparency. I accordingly argued that the Court should “leapfrog PACER and supply free public access to all filings (with appropriate exceptions, such as for materials under seal, of course). The Court should become a leader in promoting judicial transparency, rather than remaining woefully far behind.”
A few months later, Chief Justice Roberts addressed the PACER Problem in his 2014 Year End Report by including the following statement, with my emphasis added:
The Supreme Court is currently developing its own electronic filing system, which may be operational as soon as 2016. Once the system is implemented, all filings at the Court—petitions and responses to petitions, merits briefs, and all other types of motions and applications—will be available to the legal community and the public without cost on the Court’s website.
Two years have now passed since the Chief revealed his plan, but the Court still lacks a digital filing system that affords the public free, instant access to important documents.
Later today, the Chief will issue a new Year End Report. I hope that he’ll include the development of a free docket system among his new year’s resolutions.
Cross-posted on Prawfs.