Ongoing Pilots and Projects - Annual Report 2012
Patent Pilot Project
Under legislation enacted in January 2011, the Judiciary was required to establish in at least six district courts a 10-year pilot project designed to increase the expertise of district court judges in patent cases through specialization and training. At the request of the Director of the AO, the Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) Committee chose 14 courts to participate in the pilot beginning in September 2011, and provided them with implementation guidance. The pilot project has been implemented in all participating courts, and 77 judges in those courts are serving as "designated patent judges" to whom patent cases filed in their districts may be transferred by a non-patent judge originally assigned the case. In addition to surveying all the designated patent judges, the Federal Judicial Center has been collecting case data from the pilot courts to respond to questions that must be answered under the statute. An interim report is due in September 2016, and a final report with recommendations is due five years after that.
Cameras in the Courtroom Pilot Project
In September 2010, the Conference approved a pilot project allowing 14 participating district courts to record video of civil proceedings when the parties consent. So far, nine of those courts have posted more than 50 civil proceedings, ranging from short motion hearings to full jury trials. Proceedings covered First and Fourth Amendment issues, personal injury, civil rights, trademark infringements, habeas corpus, patents, libel, and environmental cases. The site provides brief summaries of each video recording and organizes them by court, subject matter, and procedural posture. There have been more than 116,000 viewings of the posted federal court proceedings on the internet since the pilot began. The pilot will continue until 2014, when a final evaluation and recommendation to the Conference will be made.
Court Opinion Pilot Program
More than 600,000 court opinions from 29 federal courts are now available to the public free of charge on the U.S. Government Printing Offices Federal Digital System (FDsys) website as part of a pilot program that began in October 2011. The opinions have become one of the most frequently accessed materials on the FDsys site, which provides free online access to federal electronic information from all three branches of government. In September 2012, the Judicial Conference approved the program for national implementation.
In June 2012, the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure approved for public comment several modernized forms proposed for use by individual debtors filing for bankruptcy. They are the first set of forms recommended for publication by the Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules in its multi-year effort to make bankruptcy forms more user-friendly, accurate, and electronically fillable. The comments received will inform the Committee's final recommendations.
Dodd-Frank Act Implementation and Studies
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 required the AO to conduct studies—annually for the first three years, then subsequently every fifth year—to examine the Bankruptcy Code and assess the bankruptcy system's ability to handle the insolvency and restructuring of financial firms. The AO's second report under the Act was submitted to Congress in July 2012. A working group, comprised of judges from the Committee on the Administration of the Bankruptcy System, a law professor, and AO and Federal Judicial Center staff, developed the AO's first Dodd-Frank study in 2011 and its efforts continued in 2012. Matters addressed in the second report include the monitoring of developments in certain bankruptcy cases involving large financial institutions, a review of the latest academic and financial literature, a study of claims-resolution procedures, and a collection of certain preliminary data. Because the Act also requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study, the AO provided GAO with information and reviewed GAO's draft report before it was sent to Congress. Neither the AO report nor the GAO report contained specific recommendations.