U.S. Supreme Court Moves Toward Electronic Filing

    Jan 28, 2015

    No one would ever call the U.S. Supreme Court an early adopter of technology. While the rest of the legal community has had to embrace new information technologies, the Supreme Court has remained a paper-based system. But, it is preparing to take some baby steps into the digital age.

    On December 31, Chief Justice John Roberts released his 2014 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary in which he announced that the court is developing its own electronic case filing and case management system that may be operational as early as 2016.

    The court’s slowness to deploy new technology directly reflects its nature. Roberts described the court’s role as “passive and circumscribed,” making it only logical that it “focus[es] on those innovations that, first and foremost, advance their primary goal of fairly and efficiently adjudicating cases through the application of law.”

    “The federal courts, including the Supreme Court, must often introduce new technologies at a more measured pace than other institutions, especially those in private industry,” Roberts wrote in the year-end report. “They will sometimes seem more guarded in adopting cutting-edge innovations, and for good reason, considering some of the concerns that the judiciary must consider in deploying new technologies.” Those concerns include security of information.

    Roberts goes on to write, “The judiciary has a special duty to ensure, as a fundamental matter of equal access to justice, that its case filing process is readily accessible to the entire population, from the most tech-savvy to the most tech-intimidated.”

    Once the system is implemented, all Supreme Court filings will be available free to the legal community and to the public on the court’s website. They will also be available on paper. According to the year-end report, the court expects that electronic filing eventually will be the official means for parties represented by counsel, but paper copies will also be required, particularly for those parties without counsel. Court personnel will scan and upload these to its website so they can be accessed by the public.



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