In his “2014 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary,” United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts discussed an initiative that would make all documents filed with the court available online as soon as 2016. Currently, paper copies of documents such as petitions, responses, briefs and other public documents are available, but there is a lack of access on the Supreme Court’s website.
While it is no secret that courts seem to lag behind the technological times, Chief Justice Roberts makes no apologies for this reality. “Like other centuries-old institutions, courts may have practices that seem archaic and inefficient – and some are,” he said. “Judges and court executives are understandably circumspect in introducing change to a court system that works well until they are satisfied that they are introducing change for the good.”
Although the court may allow for online document access, they are still hesitant to allow cameras in the courtroom and continue to deny making audio available immediately from oral arguments. As it now stands, audio is available on Fridays of the week the arguments are held. You can, however, access transcripts the day of the arguments on the court’s website. Justices also do not post their financial disclosures online. When a justice has a speaking engagement, there is no system in place that publicizes the speech.
Chief Justice Roberts referenced the fabled Tortoise and Hare when it comes to bringing the courts into the digital age. He wrote that although the federal judiciary has benefitted from online systems, it is imperative that they move slowly in order to protect confidentiality and to ensure that the system is secure. The proposed technological plan does not provide for electronic filing.
What do you think of the Supreme Court’s plan to implement limited technology?