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April 2012

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

 

Feed the Need


Do you need to know the minute something happens in a court case? Are you tracking a case, waiting for an order or a hearing date? From a simple extension on filing documents to a verdict in a case, from a payment plan to a final report in a bankruptcy case—whenever there is any activity in a case, the Judiciary’s PACER system can update you on your computer, or any other electronic device, with automatic case notification.

Look for the RSS icon on the PACER court links page (www.pacer.gov/psco/cgi-bin/links.pl) to identify the courts providing the notification. Click on the link and you will see a list of the court’s cases, by case number and name, with a brief text description of the most recent activity and the time it occurred. The cases can be sorted by date and by title.

Subscribe to the RSS, or webfeed, and updated information from the court’s feed is automatically downloaded to your electronic device. If users are logged-in to PACER, the feed can take them directly to the case record. Only when a logged-in user views a PACER document or a docket report is a fee incurred.

“Most users will want to winnow the case information that is sent,” said Michel Ishakian, chief of the Administrative Office’s Public Access and Records Management Division. “A feed reader or news aggregator—which are available free for downloading online—let users select individual cases from an RSS feed, so only that case information is delivered. Users also can change the frequency with which they receive updates, from every few minutes to daily. And it’s all free.”

And its not just for attorneys. “Reporters would definitely like to get up-dates on new filings without having to check PACER constantly,” said Michael Rothfeld, a reporter and member of the Law Bureau at the Wall Street Journal. “It would be incredibly useful to have that case information delivered automatically.”

Ishakian compares the automated case notification to the old “press box” in a court clerk’s office or press room—but faster and more accessible. “You don’t have to be added to a case as an interested party to know what cases were opened at the court that day, or, for example, to find out when a hearing is scheduled,” said Ishakian.

Currently, 49 district courts and 85 bankruptcy courts have RSS feeds with automated case notification. Nearly all the courts of appeals have RSS feeds for opinions with a few including events and court announcements. Many of the courts of appeals indicate the availability of webfeeds on their home webpages.