This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.
Greater Access to, Transparency in Court Proceedings Aim of Conference
At its biannual meeting in March the Judicial Conference adopted two
recommendations aimed at providing greater access to and transparency in
Endorsing a recommendation from its Committee on Court
Administration and Case Management, the Conference strongly urged all
federal district courts with electronic dockets to indicate clearly when
cases are sealed by using computer notices that state "case under seal"
rather than "case does not exist."
The federal court system’s Case Management/Electronic
Case Filing System, which currently operates in 92 out of 94 district
courts, has made case files more available to the public. Users who
queried the system about a sealed case or docket entry received an
automated response stating "this case does not exist," which caused some
to allege that courts were maintaining "secret" dockets. Under the new
Conference policy, courts that have electronically sealed case files are
being urged to revise their message to indicate that particular cases
have been placed under seal.
Acting on a recommendation from the same committee, the
Conference also endorsed a six-to-12-month pilot project in which
several courts will make digital audio recordings of courtroom
proceedings publicly available online through the PACER (Public Access
to Court Electronic Records) system. Use of digital audio recording as a
method of making a court record was approved by the Conference in 1999,
and audio recordings of court proceedings routinely have been available
for purchase at clerks’ offices in courts where recording devices are
used to take the record of proceedings. Currently, 37 active judges in
ten district courts, virtually all magistrate judges, and 72 bankruptcy
courts use electronic sound recording equipment.
In other action, the Conference: