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May 2006

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Courts' Compliance with E-Government Act Nearly Total

For 2006, the Judiciary reports to Congress that each of the nearly 200 federal courts have websites and the vast majority of those sites satisfy or exceed all of the currently applicable requirements of the E-Government Act of 2002. By statute, a report on court compliance with the Act must be submitted to Congress annually.

The E-Government Act, P.L. 107-347, is intended, in part, “to establish a broad framework of measures that require using Internet-based information technology to enhance citizen access to Government information and services.”

The Act requires each federal court to establish and maintain a website with information or links to websites with information on court location and contact information for the courthouse, local rules and standing or general orders of the court, access to docket information for each case, access to the substance of all written opinions issued by the court in a text-searchable format, and any other information, including forms that the court determines useful to the public. Federal courts comply with most of these requirements through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system and the Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system, which provide remote access to electronic versions of documents filed with the courts.

A court unable to meet the Act’s requirements must submit an annual notice with the reason for the deferral. In 2005, 21 courts filed notices of deferral with the Administrative Office; in 2006, only seven courts asked to defer full compliance with the Act. Courts’ reasons for deferring include not yet being fully operational on the CM/ECF system, web-available opinions that are not text searchable, and needing additional time to post general orders. All courts expect to be compliant with current requirements by the end of 2006.

According to the 2006 report, the majority of courts are not only in compliance, many are including more information on their websites than the Act requires. Specifically, courts are using their websites to provide information on the history of the court, information specific to potential jurors, and information needed by members of their practicing bars. They are also using the sites to allow the public greater access to more general information, including job opportunities with the federal government, access to websites of other branches and agencies of the federal government, and general information about the federal government structure.