Better late than never, the U.S. Supreme Court announced Thursday that electronic filing of case documents will be required beginning on November 13.
A press release from the court said, “A quick link on the Court’s website homepage will provide access to the new system, developed in-house to provide prompt and easy access to case documents. Once the system is in place, virtually all new filings will be accessible without cost to the public and legal community.”
The system will not be part of PACER, the longstanding operation used by lower federal courts, which charges for documents by the page up to 30 pages. A new button called “Electronic Filing” appeared today on the court’s main page.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. in a 2014 report, said electronic filing “may be operational as soon as 2016” but all the pieces came together a bit later. A revamp of the court’s website www.supremecourt.gov launched July 28, setting the stage for the new filing system.
The release said practitioners will “initially” be required to file paper versions of filings as well as electronic versions. Petitions and briefs filed by pro se litigants, some of which may not fit required formats of the court, will be scanned by court staff and then posted on the electronic docket.
Social media and practitioners praised the court’s long-awaited plan.
“It’s certainly a positive step that will increase public access” to court information, said Pratik Shah, co-head of the Supreme Court and Appellate practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. “We won’t have to rely on SCOTUSblog as much.”
Shah added that practitioners are accustomed to electronic filing in other courts, so the high court’s new program will not cause any difficulties. Practitioners will have to register closer to the start date for the program.
Fix the Court, a group that advocates for greater transparency at the Supreme Court, gave an uncharacteristic thumbs-up on Twitter. “We rarely get to say this, so we’ll do so in all caps, THANK YOU, #SCOTUS!