Public Outreach - Annual Report 2014
Enhanced Public Access to Electronic Case Files
Attorneys who file cases in multiple courts will benefit from a new authentication module implemented in August 2014 as part of the Next Generation of Case Management and Electronic Case Files (NextGen). Once all courts have converted to NextGen, filers will be able to use a single username and password for viewing cases in all courts, and for filing in courts in which they have e-filing privileges. Attorneys who practice in one court will be able to use the single log-in feature for both PACER and filing access, and attorneys in private practice who occasionally serve as court-appointed attorneys will be able to use the same account for both types of work. Other features of the new module include the ability to create your own easy-to-remember username, a self-service password reset feature, and the ability to store credit card information for both PACER and filing fee payments in NextGen courts. In addition, the planning process has begun for other enhancements, including an improved user interface, a new alert feature that can be customized to the user’s needs, expanded search capabilities, and a batch download option.
Free Online Access to Opinions Grows
Free online access to federal court opinions through Federal Digital System (FDsys) now includes 99 courts. The federal Judiciary partners with the Government Printing Office (GPO) on FDsys to provide public access to more than 1.25 million opinions, dating back over a decade. FDsys currently contains opinions from 12 appellate courts, 39 district courts, and 46 bankruptcy courts, along with the Court of International Trade and the Court of Federal Claims.
Federal court opinions are one of the most heavily used collections on FDsys, with millions of retrievals each month. Opinions are pulled nightly from the courts’ Case Management/Electronic Case Files systems and sent to the GPO, where they are posted on the FDsys website. Collections on FDsys are text-searchable across courts.
Celebrating the 225th Anniversary of the Judiciary Act
For 2014, a key theme of the U.S. court’s public education efforts was the 225th Anniversary of the Judiciary Act, and how federal courts continue to affect average Americans today. Educational activities and resources for the classroom on the U.S. Courts website illustrated the unique role of the federal courts.
The Judiciary Act was signed into law on Sept. 24, 1789, during the first session of Congress. President George Washington made his first judicial nomination that same day, and within days the first federal judges were being confirmed. The Judiciary Act established one federal court system across the entire nation.
Highlighting Constitution Day with Naturalization Ceremonies
In a first-ever coordinated approach to Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17, this year some 30 federal judges conducted naturalization ceremonies at their courthouses and at iconic sites. Judges swore in more than 8,500 new citizens at sites ranging from the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in Manhattan to Glacier Peak in Yosemite National Park and from a high school in Anchorage to the Alamo in San Antonio. Some courts invited local schools and more than 1,500 students participated by leading the Pledge of Allegiance, reading the Preamble to the Constitution, singing patriotic songs or presenting new citizens with welcome letters. This was the inaugural year in a long-term effort to involve students in court-hosted naturalization ceremonies as civics education events.
Briefing International Delegations on the Rule of Law
The AO supports the Judicial Conference Committee on International Judicial Relations in its mission to "coordinate the federal Judiciary's relationship with foreign judiciaries and with official and unofficial agencies and organizations interested in international judicial relations, and the establishment and expansion of the rule of law and the administration of justice."
During fiscal year 2014, foreign delegations from 61 countries or territories received substantive briefings coordinated by AO staff on key aspects of the federal judicial system, including the structure, operation, and administration of the federal courts, the Judicial Conference, the courts’ interactions with the media, and federal judicial independence and transparency. Four of the delegations, consisting of 114 international judges from Armenia, Estonia, Kosovo, Moldova, Russia, and Turkey, traveled to the United States through the Open World Leadership Center at the Library of Congress. The Open World visitors receive a one-day orientation briefing at the AO before traveling to cities throughout the United States where they are hosted by federal judges and community leaders for week-long rule of law programs focusing on the judicial system and democratic institutions in the United States.
Enhancing Web Communications
The AO has taken several steps to improve the Judiciary’s public web communications:
- A project is underway to refresh the design and function of the public uscourts.gov website to offer users enhanced information and increased accessibility via mobile and desktop devices.
- The AO continues to develop a toolbox for courts to use in building public websites. More than 75 appellate courts, district courts, bankruptcy courts, and probation and pretrial services offices now use the AO-designed template for their internet sites, bringing greater consistency in content and functionality to court public websites.
Warning the Public on Jury Scams
Throughout fiscal year 2014, the federal Judiciary issued public warnings about email scams purporting to be about jury service that fraudulently asked for personal information, delivered a computer virus, or threatened arrest unless the recipient immediately paid money. Courts across the country posted warnings on their websites about the various scams with information on how to recognize a juror scam and who to contact with questions.