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April 2009

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


Courts of Appeals Use E-Technology to Deliver Opinions

The First Circuit Court of Appeals recently added RSS feeds for both opinions and audio recordings of oral arguments to its public website. The circuit joins the Third, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and the Eleventh Circuits, which are already using Real Simple Syndication to deliver web content directly to interested parties, eliminating the usual e-mail notification. Updated information from the RSS feed is automatically downloaded to a user’s computer and can be viewed in Internet Explorer and other browsers.

This is just the latest in the courts of appeals’ use of the web, e-mail and digital data storage to disseminate opinions and court information.

The Seventh Circuit provides podcasts and MP3 audio files of oral arguments in addition to RSS feeds on its site. The podcasts also can be accessed through iTunes.com. And if you’d prefer to have opinions delivered directly to your mobile device, that’s possible too.

In addition to its RSS feed, the Eighth Circuit includes podcasts and oral arguments in the MP3 format. The court doesn’t limit postings to cases. Recent audio posts allowed the public to listen in on a memorial service for Judge Donald Lay and a ceremony in which one of Justice Harry A. Blackmun’s judicial robes was donated to the court.

The largest circuit, the Ninth, offers the most RSS feeds. Users wishing to subscribe to RSS feeds have a choice of feeds for opinions, memoranda-unpublished dispositions, cases of interest, and court announcements.

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit makes files of oral arguments available on-line in the MP3 format and is considering adding RSS feeds for both opinions and audio recordings of oral arguments to its webpage.

Courts who have yet to add RSS feeds, offer alternatives. Although opinions are posted on their websites daily, several circuits offer a free subscription service that sends an e-mail notification when opinions are released. The option is available in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Circuits. The Fifth Circuit also makes oral arguments available through its website, generally, the day of the argument. The DC, Second, Fourth, and Sixth Circuits provide audio files on a CD upon request. In the DC Circuit, all appeals, remands, or other additional proceedings must be concluded before the audio files are made available.