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April 2011

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


Pilot Project Will Enhance Public Access to Federal Court Opinions

A dozen courts have been selected to participate in a pilot program in which the federal Judiciary and the Government Printing Office are partnering to provide free public access to court opinions through the GPO’s FdSys system.

The joint project was approved by the Judicial Conference in March 2010, and the GPO received approval from the Joint Committee on Printing—often referred to as the oldest joint committee of the Congress—in February 2011. When fully implemented later this spring, the pilot will include two courts of appeals, seven district courts, and three bankruptcy courts.

In March, the Judicial Conference approved expansion of the pilot to include up to 30 additional courts.

The Judiciary continually has sought ways to enhance public access to court opinions. Free access to opinions in all federal courts is now available via the Judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records service (PACER). Building on that, Administrative Office staff met with GPO management and staff to explore making opinions available through GPO's FdSys, which can provide the public with a robust search engine that can search common threads across opinions and across courts.

The 12 participating pilot courts are the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second and Eighth Circuits; the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maryland, Idaho, and Kansas; the Northern District of New York, and the Northern District of Alabama; and the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts for the District of Maine, the Southern District of Florida, and the Southern District of New York.

Pursuit of the joint pilot is consistent with the E-Government Act. When the joint pilot concludes, a determination will be made on whether to continue to provide access to opinions through FdSys.

Participating pilot courts:

District Courts

  • District of Minnesota
  • District of Rhode Island
  • District of Maryland
  • District of Idaho
  • District of Kansas
  • Northern District of New York
  • Northern District of Alabama

Courts of Appeals

  • Second Circuit
  • Eighth Circuit

Bankruptcy Courts

  • District of Maine
  • Southern District of Florida
  • Southern District of New York.