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Transcripts of Federal Court Proceedings Nationwide To Be Available Online

September 18, 2007

Contact: David Sellers, 202-502-2600

The Judicial Conference of the United States today voted to make transcripts of federal district and bankruptcy court proceedings available online through the Judiciary's Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system.

Under the new policy, transcripts created by court reporters or transcribers will be available for inspection and copying in a clerk of court's office and for download from PACER 90 days after they are delivered to the clerk. Individuals will be able to view, download, or print a copy of a transcript from PACER for eight cents per page.

During the initial 90-day period, transcripts will be available at the clerk's office for inspection only, or may be purchased from the court reporter or transcriber.

Implementation of the Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system over the past decade has allowed remote electronic access to most federal case files. The only type of court document not yet publicly available online nationwide has been the transcript of court proceedings.

The Conference today also voted to continue implementing its cost-containment program by adopting a series of recommendations relating to law clerks and the Judiciary's Court Personnel System in general. At its September 2004 session the Judicial Conference adopted a sweeping cost-containment strategy to help courts cope with projected funding shortfalls. In the last three years, steps have been taken to reduce the costs of courthouse rent, information technology, probation and pretrial services, and several other Judiciary programs.

Continuing its cost-containment effort, today the Conference agreed to modernize its Court Personnel System benchmarks, which will affect the classification and grading of staff positions nationwide. It also voted to give local courts greater autonomy in managing and paying their personnel, and to develop national performance guidelines for local implementation.

With regard to law clerks, the Conference agreed that each judge will be limited to one career law clerk. Those 291 career law clerks now in chambers where more than one career law clerk is employed will be able to retain their career status in those chambers, with the assent of their judge. In addition, any career law clerk now in place can be hired as a career law clerk by another judge, even if that judge already employs a career law clerk, if their current judge dies, retires, resigns or is otherwise unable to retain a law clerk. Most federal law clerks are "term" clerks and typically serve one or two years. "Career" law clerks are expected to serve four or more years. This new policy limits a term law clerk's term of employment to no more than four years, to be applied prospectively for current term law clerks. Another step replaces law clerk salary matching with a system aimed at achieving salary parity between those law clerks who gain their work experience within the Judiciary and those who gain their experience outside the Judiciary.

In other matters, the Conference:

  • Approved establishment of a joint pilot project in which the Government Printing Office and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts will provide free PACER access to the public at approximately 15 federal depository libraries.
  • Encouraged district courts to examine how jurors are summoned and to consider adopting changes, if local circumstances permit, regarding how long jurors are on call or how frequently they are required to serve, so as to make their service on juries less burdensome.
  • Voted to seek an amendment in federal law to increase from $1,000 to $5,000 the maximum civil penalty for employers who retaliate against employees serving on jury duty.
  • Directed the various Circuit Judicial Councils to continue implementation of the recommendations of the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act Study Committee, which was chaired by Justice Stephen Breyer by, 1) encouraging the courts in their respective circuits to create committees of local lawyers to serve as intermediaries between individual lawyers and the formal complaint process; 2) requiring all courts covered by the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act to provide information about filing a complaint on the homepage of the court website and take other steps to publicize the Act; and 3) ensuring the submission of timely and accurate statistical information about complaint filing and terminations. This summer the Judicial Conference's Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability released its draft Rules Governing Judicial Conduct and Disability Proceedings for 90 days of public comment to conclude October 15, 2007. The Committee also will hold a public hearing regarding the draft rules on September 27, 2007, at the U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn.

The Judicial Conference is the principal policy-making body for the federal court system. The Chief Justice serves as the presiding officer of the Conference, which is composed of the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch. See the Related Items box on this page for a list of the September 2007 Conference members.