Federal Courts

Hearing Transcripts to Go Online

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The policy-making arm of the nation’s federal courts voted today to make it easier for both lawyers and the public to access court materials.

For lawyers, the big news is the plan approved by the Judicial Conference of the United States to put transcripts of district and bankruptcy court proceedings online. Most other case documents already are available remotely to computer users via the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system, notes a press release about the results of the Judicial Conference meeting today.

Transcripts are expected to be provided via PACER within 90 days of when they are delivered to the court clerk. Because PACER access often requires a subscription, the service can be difficult for the general public to use. The conference addressed this issue by voting to provide free public access to PACER at 15 federal depository libraries.

In other matters, the conference encouraged courts to consider changes in the way jurors are summoned, increased the permitted penalty for employers who retaliate against workers called for jury duty, and directed continued implementation of recommendations made by the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act Study Committee.

Oct. 15 is the deadline for commenting on draft rules (PDF) about how proceedings to deal with complaints concerning alleged judicial misconduct or disability should be run. A public hearing on the rules is scheduled for Sept. 27 at the U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn.

As the press release explains, “The Judicial Conference is the principal policy-making body for the federal court system. The Chief Justice serves as the presiding officer of the Conference, which is composed of the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade.”

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