Judicial Conference Committee to Consider Archive of District and Bankruptcy Court Opinions. August 19, 2008

In a letter to HyperLaw dated July 28, 2008, United States District Court Judge John R. Tunheim of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota and Chair of the Judicial Conference's Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, stated that this Committee would address HyperLaw's proposals to provide broader access to the lower court opinions of the federal courts. He stated that the Committee would meet in December of 2008 and would address the earlier letters sent to the Administrative Office. In the meantime, the Electronic Public Access Working Group of the Administrative Office ("AO") will be considering the issues as well.

Judge Tunheim asked that correspondence on the issue be directed to the Chief of the AO's Court Administration Policy Staff prior to September 24, 2008, in anticipation of the Electronic Public Access Working Group meeting to be held in October.

It seems that there is a general appreciation of the need to address these issues.

It is important for the policy makers to understand that access to these opinions is desired by members of the general public and interested persons, and not just attorneys. Effectively, research and quick access to all published and unpublished decisions of the lower federal courts is available only to subscribers of WestLaw and Lexis.

Policy makers also need to understand that writers and publishers of news and legal analysis, including blogs, need permanent links to these opinions, many of which are of interest not only to the general public, but to specific professions and groups impacted by many opinions.

Finally, those with vague, but ultimately hopeless, beliefs that in the future these opinions can just be scanned from West's Federal Supplement, Federal Rules Decisions, and Federal Bankruptcy Reporter need to grasp the simple truth that these print publications only contain a part of the whole.

In any event, paraphrasing the 1909 words of John B. West, what is needed are immediately available citations as and when opinions are released from the courts. In modern terms, that means exposing the opinions to search engines and linking resources the opinion identification information - court, date, docket number, docket sequence number, and, for good measure, the case name. Relying on private publishers, such as West, to provide this information for just a portion of the opinions, and many months after the release of the opinions, is in a sense retrogressive, and clearly an incomplete solution.

See HyperLaw's May 17, 2008 letter to the Administrative Office.




Hon. John R. Tunheim
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Minnesota
13E United States Courthouse
300 South Fourth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55415
(612) 664-5080



Abel Mattos
Court Administration Policy Staff
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
One Columbus Circle, N.E.

Washington, DC 20544
  Members of the Committee  

Hon. John D. Bates
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse
333 Constitution Avenue, Northwest

Washington, DC  20001

Hon. Robert J. Johnston
U.S. Magistrate Judge
U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada
33 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

Las Vegas, NV 89101

Hon. Amy J. St. Eve
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Everett McKinley Dirksen
United States Courthouse
219 South Dearborn Street

Chicago, IL 60604

Hon.  Paul D. Borman
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse
231 W. Lafayette Blvd., Room 740

Detroit, MI 48226

Hon. Benson Everett Legg
Chief Judge
U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
United States Courthouse
101 West Lombard Street

Baltimore, MD 21201-2605

Hon. Sonia Sotomayor
U.S. Court Of Appeals, Second Circuit -
The Daniel Patrick Moynihan CourthousE
500 Pearl Street

NEW YORK, NY 10007

Hon. Aida M. Delgado-Colon
U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
Clemente Ruíz Nazario U.S. Courthouse          

150 Carlos Chardón Street Hato Rey, PR 00918

Hon. Ronald B. Leighton
U.S. District Court for the District of Washington
Union Station Courthouse
1717 Pacific Ave  Room 3100

Tacoma, WA  98402-9800

The Honorable T. John Ward
United States District Court
Eastern District of Texas
100 East Houston Street

Marshall, Texas 75670

Hon. Julio M. Fuentes
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse
50 Walnut Street, Room 5032

Newark, NJ 07102

Hon. Steven D. Merryday
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida
Tampa Division
Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse
801 North Florida Avenue

Tampa, Florida 33602

Hon. James B. Haines, Jr.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maine
537 Congress Street
2nd Floor
Portland, ME 04101

Hon. Julie A. Robinson
U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas
259 Robert J. Dole
United States Courthouse
500 State Avenue

Kansas City, KS 66101-2400