U.S. Courts News: New Pilot Project Will Enhance Public Access to Federal Court Opinions

A dozen federal courts have been selected to participate in a pilot program in which the federal judiciary and theGovernment Printing Office are partnering to provide free public access to court opinions through the GPO’s FDSys system.

The one-year pilot project was approved by the Judicial Conference in March 2010, and the GPO received approval from the Joint Committee on Printing – often referred to as the oldest joint committee of the Congress – in February 2011.

When fully implemented later this year, the pilot will include two courts of appeals, seven district courts, and three bankruptcy courts. In March, the Judicial Conference approved expansion of the pilot to include up to 30 additional courts.

The judiciary continually has sought ways to enhance public access to court opinions. Free access to opinions in all federal courts is currently available via the judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records service (PACER).

Building on that success, staff from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts met with GPO management to explore making opinions even more accessible. Fdsys can provide the public with a robust search engine that can search common threads across opinions and courts.

The initial 12 participating courts are the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second and Eighth Circuits; the U.S. district courts for the Districts of Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maryland, Idaho, and Kansas, the Northern District of New York, and the Northern District of Alabama; and the U.S. bankruptcy courts for the District of Maine, the Southern District of Florida, and the Southern District of New York.

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