On Monday, November 13, the Supreme Court’s new electronic filing system became operational, fulfilling a commitment Chief Justice Roberts had made back in 2014. In his 2014 Year-End Report of the Federal Judiciary, Chief Justice Roberts focused on information technology. In the report, the Chief Justice described how the Court has used technology, from the pneumatic tubes of the mid-20th century that allowed journalists to transmit opinions from the courtroom to their colleagues in the press room downstairs, to the more recent advent of computer-assisted legal research. He then moved on to electronic filing, describing the federal courts’ CM/ECF(Case Management and Electronic Case Filing) and PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) systems, which the federal courts began using in 2001, as vital to making the court system more accessible and affordable to litigants. Chief Justice Roberts added that the Supreme Court was developing its own electronic filing system, while cautioning that the Court would move slowly when adopting information technologies.
The Supreme Court’s new system largely tracks the Chief Justice’s 2014 description, and it has received good reviews. For now, all parties will continue to submit all filings on paper; however, the Court will require all parties who are represented by counsel to file their submissions electronically as well. The documents will be available free of charge on the Court’s website, which distinguishes this system from the PACER system. PACER, which charges $0.10 per page up to $3 per document, has come under criticism for making public documents harder to access and for making academic research on the courts more costly, as The Washington Post explains. At least two lawsuits have been filed challenging those fees.
This post was drafted by ISCOTUS Fellow Eva Dickey, Chicago-Kent Class of 2020, edited by ISCOTUS Fellow Bridget Flynn, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, and overseen by ISCOTUS Co-Director and Chicago-Kent Professor Carolyn Shapiro.