Main

April 15, 2014

Legislation Relating to CCAP Dies

From the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin Government Relations Chair, Candace Hall Slaminski:

It appears all proposed legislation relating to CCAP has died this session.

AB 253 and SB 234, both relating to restricting access to and limiting information in CCAP, have failed this session.

AB 520, relating to removing certain information in CCAP, failed to pass this session.

SB 620, relating to removing from records and CCAP a criminal conviction if the person has been pardoned, failed to pass this session.

SB 526 and AB 685, both restricting information available on CCAP, have failed to pass this session.


July 2, 2013

Hear Ye, OYEZ to cover State Supreme Courts

OYEZ, the website long known for its coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court, plans to expand access to the proceedings of State Supreme Courts.

Through a grant from the Open Government project sponsored by the Knight Foundation, the OYEZ Project will enlarge its free online archive of transcripts, audio recordings, news and analysis of court proceedings and decisions.

The plan is to begin with five states: California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas and grow from there.

This expansion is in keeping with OYEZ's longstanding mission of promoting transparency and open government.

Another article about OYEZ's planned expansion may be viewed on the National Law Journal website.

Post by Eric Taylor, UW Law Library

May 29, 2012

Checklist for Filing Appellate Briefs in Wisconsin

According to the latest InsideTrack, the Appellate Practice Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin has created an Appellate Brief Filing Checklist outlining requirements to help lawyers during the brief-writing process.

The first part is a checklist with boxes permitting practitioners literally to check off the items as they are included in a brief, and the second part is an accompanying outline to explain the checklist.

Hat tip to my colleague, Bill Ebbott.

May 16, 2012

WI Sup Ct Recommends No Change to Rule Allowing Citation of Unpublished Appeals Court Opinions

From WisBar's InsideTrack:

A state rule of appellate procedure that allows attorneys to cite unpublished Wisconsin Court of Appeals opinions as persuasive authority will continue unchanged, the Wisconsin Supreme Court recently concluded....

Under Wis. Stat. section 809.23(3)(b), only unpublished opinions issued on or after July 1, 2009, which are authored by a member of a three-judge panel or by a single judge under section 752.31(2), may be cited....

Because an unpublished opinion cited for its persuasive value is not precedent, it is not considered binding, and a court need not distinguish or otherwise discuss an unpublished opinion. No party has a duty to research or cite unpublished opinions under the rule....

But according to the Hon. Richard Brown, chief judge for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, more unpublished opinions are being cited, at least in District II. He estimates that one in every 20 appellate briefs contains citation and discussion of unpublished decisions, which is a lot considering the number of cases handled by appeals court judges annually.

"Not only that, when reading the circuit court record in our cases, we see that unpublished opinions are being cited to the trial courts," Chief Judge Brown said. "Whether an unpublished opinion is 'persuasive' is literally a case-by-case determination."

March 22, 2012

Today in Wisconsin History - 1877, Passage of WI Law Prohibiting Denial of Admission to the Bar on the Basis of Gender

Today's On This Day in Wisconsin History features the passage of a bill in the Wisconsin Legislature prohibiting denial of admission to the bar on the basis of gender.

Here's more from the State Historical Society:

R. Lavinia Goodell was the first woman admitted to the Wisconsin State Bar in 1897. Goodell had first applied in 1875, but was denied because it was believed that women were not suited to practice law. According to Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward G. Ryan, "Nature has tempered woman as little for the juridicial conflicts of the court room, as for the physical conflicts of the battle field."

Goodell then worked with the legislature to pass and defend enabling legislation. After the legislature passed it, she reapplied for admission to practice before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and her petition was granted on June 18, 1879, with Judge Ryan dissenting.

If you're interested in learning more about Goodell, see her biography entitled, Strong-minded woman : the story of Lavinia Goodell, Wisconsin's first female lawyer. Note that it is written for young readers.

December 20, 2011

Mobile App for PACER Access Free for Limited Time

FedCtRecords is a iPhone/iPad app which allows registered PACER users to search and retrieve documents. It is free for a limited time.

According to the support page, you can:

* Search Attorney and Party names within a District Court.
* Add Attorney information to the Contacts Application.
* Save multiple cases for quick retrieval.
* View Party and Attorney information.
* View Case Summary information.
* View Deadline and Hearings summary information.
* View Docket summary information.
* View and Email Docket Filings in pdf format.

Note that this application is for case searching only - it cannot be used to file documents.

Hat tip to LexScripta

December 15, 2011

Portage Co Joins CCAP to Complete Statewide Integration

Earlier this month, Portage County joined Wisconsin's Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP) electronic case-management system. Since it was the last of Wisconsin's 72 counties to join, CCAP now has complete statewide integration.

For more information, see The Third Branch.

December 1, 2011

Restyled Federal Rules of Evidence Effective Today

On April 26, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court approved restyled amendments to the Federal Rules of Evidence. The amendments became effective today, December 1, 2011. For more information about the restyling, see The Third Branch.

They are available online at Cornell's LII. Apparently the uscourts.gov website has not yet been updated.

Hat tip to my colleague, Eric Taylor.

October 7, 2011

PACER Case Locator now Mobile Friendly

The Federal Judiciary has launched a new mobile web version of the PACER Case Locator. There is nothing to install - mobile visitors to PACER Case Locator will simply be redirected to pcl.uscourts.gov/searchmobile.

The PACER Case Locator allows searching for court records in all district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts. The Mobile PACER Case Locator is accessible using Apple devices, such as iPads, as well as Android devices version 2.2 or higher.

See the full PACER announcement for more. Hat tip to Legal Research Plus.

October 3, 2011

PACER Training Site Available

The Federal Judiciary has launched a new PACER training site where current and future users can learn how to use PACER. You don't have to register, and there is no charge for accessing this training area.

The site includes data from real cases filed in the New York Western District Court between 1/1/2007 and 7/1/2007 so users can get a feel for the type of case data and documents available through PACER.

September 19, 2011

Wisconsin Court System Redesigns Website

The Wisconsin court system has recently redesigned its Web site.

According to the press release, "in addition to a new graphical presentation, the new Web site helps guides visitors with better organized tabs and drop-down menus..."

The press release describes two new features on the home page:

  • The "quick links" tab leads visitors to each court system department;

  • the "How do I?" section helps guide visitors most directly to the area of the site they need, whether it's to pay a fine or find a courthouse.

ctwebsite.jpg

September 16, 2011

Federal Courts Increase PACER Fees by 25%

"The federal courts announced on Tuesday that they would be increasing fees for accessing public court records by 25 percent, from 8˘ per page to 10˘ per page," reports Ars Technica.

The article goes on to discuss how the extra revenue will be used - note that it's not to maintain PACER which already generates revenues in excess of expenses.

According to the author,

... diverting PACER fees to projects unrelated to PACER may be illegal. Harlan Yu, an open government expert at Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy, points to the 2002 law authorizing the PACER fees, which states that those fees may be charged "only to the extent necessary" to cover the costs of providing public access. Congress "sought to have a system in which the information is 'freely available to the greatest extent possible,'" he told Ars, quoting from the conference report that accompanied the legislation.

August 19, 2011

Analysis of the Proceedings of the Old Bailey Revises the History of the Criminal Trial

This week, the New York Times had an interesting article about a digital archive of the Proceedings of the Old Bailey.

The archive is a fully searchable collection of criminal trials held at London's central criminal court including biographical details of the men and women executed at Tyburn. Contains all surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674 to 1913 and of the Ordinary of Newgate's Accounts between 1676 and 1772.

According to the article, an analysis of the collection led two historians to a novel discovery:

Beginning in 1825 they noticed an unusual jump in the number of guilty pleas and the number of very short trials. Before then most of the accused proclaimed their innocence and received full trials. By 1850, however, one-third of all cases involved guilty pleas. Trials, with their uncertain outcomes, were gradually crowded out by a system in which defendants pleaded guilty outside of the courtroom, they said.

Conventional histories cite the mid-1700s as the turning point in the development of the modern adversarial system of justice in England and Colonial America... [but] "mapping all trials suggests that the real moment of evolution was in the first half of the 19th century," with the advent of plea bargains that resulted in many more convictions, Mr. Hitchcock said. "The defendant's experience of the criminal justice system changed radically. You were much more likely to be found guilty."

Last month the scholars submitted an article to the British journal Past and Present on their findings.

Hat tip to the Hon. Daniel Anderson for alerting me to the NYT article.

June 2, 2011

IL Moves to Public Domain Citation

Effective July 1st, Illinois will join Wisconsin and about a dozen other states in using public domain case citation.

Although the changes require official citation to the public-domain numbering and paragraph scheme, they continue to allow parallel citations to the unofficial regional reporters such as the North East Reporter and Illinois Decisions.

For more, see the Madison Record.

Redaction Failures in PACER Documents

A few years ago, a survey by Carl Malamud revealed that PACER contained more than 1600 cases in which litigants submitted documents with unredacted Social Security numbers.

Now Timothy B. Lee of the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy has
found thousands more PACER documents in which parties tried to redact sensitive information but the redactions failed for technical reasons. For more on the study, see the Center's blog.

With the prevalence of electronic filing, it's very important to know how to properly redact content. Lee recommends reviewing the National Security Agency's primer on secure redaction.

He also suggests using this simple step to check your redactions:

Regardless of the tool used, it's a good idea to take the redacted document and double-check that the information was removed. An easy way to do this is to simply cut and paste the "redacted" content into another document. If the redaction succeeded, no text should be transferred. This method will catch most, but not all, redaction failures.

May 24, 2011

Non-legal Factors Affecting Judicial Decisions

From LegalMatch Law Blog:

Lawyers frequently have to explain to clients the myriad reasons why their cases didn't go as expected. In any given civil or criminal case, there are usually a range of legal factors to consider, many beyond the control of the parties.

But what about non-legal factors? A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggests that these non-legal factors matter more than you might think. Impressively, the study concludes that a significant factor in getting a favorable decision is when the judge last had a lunch break.


See the full article for more on this study of Israeli judges.

May 20, 2011

WI Briefs Database Turns a Page

Access to the appellate briefs and appendices in the Wisconsin Briefs database has been brought to you by the successful and collaborative effort of the staff at the State Law Library, who generates the scanned images, and the staff at the UW Law Library, who host this database on their website.

Due to the adoption of appellate electronic filing by the Wisconsin Court System, on July 1, 2009, we will discontinue the expansion of the Wisconsin Briefs database. You will continue to have access to the database, as it is, on the UW Law Library's website for briefs and appendices from published and unpublished cases found in 173 Wis.2d through 317 Wis.2d but we will not be adding new documents to this webpage in the future.

You will now be able to retrieve briefs from 318 Wis.2d forward by way of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Case Access database (WSCCA). You can access electronically filed and scanned briefs by using the "Document Search " tab or by accessing the "Case History" page from an individual case's summary. Be aware that the "Full Text Search" from the "Document Search" tab will only retrieve the text of e-filed briefs. Please feel free to contact the State Law Library's reference staff with access questions as we continue to fill in the gaps between what is available on the WI Briefs webpage and what is currently available through WSCCA.

The largest difference in access between the WI Briefs webpage and WSCCA is the absence of appendices. The court system has adopted a more restrictive access policy for the appendices of appellate cases on WSCCA to protect sensitive personal information. However, appendices are public record and will be made available through the fee-based document delivery service of the State Law Library.

Post written by Angela Humiston of the WSLL

May 17, 2011

Federal Court Opinions to be Available on FDsys

Some federal court opinions will available for free on FDsys as part of a yearlong pilot program between the U.S. GPO and the federal judiciary.

Federal court opinions are already available for free on PACER, but an account is required. The pilot project will allow users to access them without a login in FDsys.

Twelve federal courts will participate in the pilot phase: the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 2nd and 8th Circuits; the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maryland, Idaho, and Kansas; the Northern District of New York; 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.

Source Law Technology News

April 12, 2011

Interesting & Unusual Case Titles

A recent Texas Bar Journal article had me laughing out loud at the reference desk this morning (which earned me some strange looks from our patrons). The article reviews interesting and unusual case titles from across the country.

Some of the more colorful titles include:

Source: Moritz Legal Information Blog

January 20, 2011

WI Briefs Database Unavailable this Saturday AM

The UW Law Library hosts a collection of Wisconsin Briefs from Nov 1992 to July 2009.

Note that the database will be unavailable for several hours between 8:00 and noon this Saturday, January 22nd as we migrate it to a new server. We apologize for the inconvenience.

November 9, 2010

Meeting of Special Committee Focusing on CCAP

The Special Committee on Review of Records Access of Circuit Court Documents met this past Thursday, Nov. 4th. The video and audio of this meeting are available via Wisconsin Eye. Memorandum, reports and documents mentioned during the meeting are available on the Special Committee's page on the Legislative Council's website.

The Chair, Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, recommends that the Committee ask their Legislative Council attorneys draft an options memo to look at areas there seems to be some consensus: time limits on records, expunctions, and whether expungements should be considered a conviction for purposes of filling out employment applications.

Other speakers:

  • Director of State Courts, John Voelker first speaks at minute 9:03 of the video.
  • Attorney Tim Costello, Krukowski & Costello. Discusses employment discrimination law at minute 25:35 of video
  • Ken Barbeau, Director of Community Programs and Services, Housing Authority, City of Milwaukee. Speaking from the landlord perspective and necessity of tenant screening at minute 01:12:00 of video
  • Lahny Silva, Attorney and Research Assistant, University of Wisconsin Law School. Speaks about consequences of conviction at minute 01:5300 of video

by Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin Government Relations Chair, Amy Crowder

September 27, 2010

NY Courts: Expect All Facebook Posts to be Considered Public Information

3 Geeks and a Law Blog reports on two opinions from NY regarding access to both public and private Facebook posts.

Bottom line in New York (and possibly every place else in the United States): Expect everything you post on Facebook or MySpace to be considered public information by the courts, and don't expect that your self-imposed privacy settings will protect you if you're ever taken to court.
Read the full post for more on the opinions.

September 14, 2010

Butler Renominated for U.S. District Judge

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

President Barack Obama has again nominated Louis B. Butler Jr. to replace John Shabaz as U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin, the White House announced Monday.
See also the press release from the White House.

September 8, 2010

Juror Must Pay Fine and Write Essay for Posting Verdict on Facebook while Case Still Being Tried

From 3 Geeks and a Law Blog:

You have to admire the punishment that Judge Diane Druzinski handed down to a juror that updated her Facebook status to say that it was "gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're GUILTY." Apparently, Judge Druzinski doesn't like it when a juror posts a verdict on a case that was STILL BEING TRIED.

Apparently, the punishment included a lecture from the judge about violating her oath as a juror, a fine of $250.00, and a five-page essay on the importance of the Sixth Amendment.

Read more at 3 Geeks

August 26, 2010

US Dist Ct Holds that Content on Social Networks Visible Only to Restricted Users is Protected

From Law Technology News via Law.com:

On May 26, a federal court issued an opinion in a discovery dispute that applies outmoded federal electronic privacy laws from the 1980s to Facebook and MySpace. The ruling could permanently change the way "social networking" sites are viewed by businesses and those involved in litigation. The decision also appears to offer the first in-depth analysis on the effect of "privacy settings" found on many social networking sites and whether information is protected from discovery by federal privacy laws.

Read the full article for more on the implications of the 1986 Stored Communications Act to today's social networks.

August 23, 2010

Cited Unpublished Court of Appeals Opinions to be Included in Appendix

From the latest InsideTrack:

Litigants in Wisconsin's appellate courts who cite unpublished court of appeals opinions soon must include copies of those opinions in appendices accompanying any brief, petition, or response in which the opinion is cited. The changes go in effect on Jan. 1, 2011.
Read the full article for more.

July 19, 2010

Judge Rejects "People's Court" Testimony

From The New York Law Journal via Law.com:

Last April, a judicial hearing officer relied on a woman's "sworn testimony" from an appearance on "The People's Court" to determine that the woman had not lived with her recently deceased mother and therefore did not have succession rights to her apartment.

In an order released this week, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Francois A. Rivera threw out the hearing officer's findings, holding that the "People's Court" testimony was not, in fact, testimony. "'The People's Court' is not a court, body, agency, public servant or other person authorized by law to conduct a proceeding and to administer the oath or cause it to be administered," Rivera wrote in Kahn v. New York Department of Housing, 15020/09.


Read the full article for more.

Government Employees' Personal E-mails Are Not Public Records

Are government employees' personal e-mails considered public records? No, according to an opinion by the Wisconsin Supreme Court last Friday.

From Schill v. Wisconsin Rapids School District:

In the present case, the court is asked to decide whether the contents of government employees' personal e-mails (that is, e-mails not related to government business) should be released to the public in keeping with the purpose and policy of the Sunshine Laws that the public be fully informed about the affairs of government and the official acts of government officers and employees....

[We] conclude that while government business is to be kept open, the contents of employees' personal e-mails are not a part of government business. Personal e-mails are therefore not always records within the meaning of Wis. Stat. § 19.32(2) simply because they are sent and received on government e-mail and computer systems.

July 16, 2010

President Obama Names UW Law School Professor Victoria Nourse to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

On Wednesday, President Obama nominated UW-Madison Law School professor Victoria Nourse to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

From the White House Press Release:

Professor Victoria F. Nourse is the Burrus-Bascom Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin School of Law, where she joined the faculty in 1993. A prolific scholar with wide-ranging interests, Professor Nourse has written extensively on criminal law, legislation, constitutional history and the separation of powers. She is also well-known for her role assisting then-Senator Joseph Biden in drafting the landmark Violence Against Women Act, part of the Biden-Hatch Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 .

June 17, 2010

How Much Does PACER Actually Cost?

Less than 18% of the total income generated by PACER fees relate directly to the cost of running the service - that's according to a new working paper by Steve Schultze, Associate Director of the Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy.

Where does the rest go? Read the paper to find out. From the abstract:

There has been considerable confusion about motivation and justification for the courts charge for access to PACER, the web-based system for "Public Access to Court Electronic Records." Representatives from the Administrative Office of the Courts describe the policy as mandated by Congress and limited to reimbursing the expenses of operating the system. This paper identifies the sources of these claims and places them in the context of the increasing push to make government data freely accessible.

Source: Law Librarian Blog

May 19, 2010

Federal Judiciary Redesigns Website

The Federal Judiciary has recently redesigned their website. It incorporates a host of emerging web technologies, such as RSS, podcasts, and multimedia.

Read the press release for more info.

May 12, 2010

Municipal Court Changes Coming Soon

From WisBar's Inside Track:

The Wisconsin Legislature has passed and sent to Gov. Doyle Senate Bill 383, a comprehensive revision of Wis. Stat. chapters 755 and 800. These chapters regulate the creation and operation of the state's 252 municipal courts. Most changes will take effect Jan. 1, 2011.
Read the full article for more information. An article taking a more in-depth look at SB 383 changes to municipal courts, focusing on the practical implications of the changes, will also appear in the July or August issue of Wisconsin Lawyer.

March 19, 2010

US Supreme Court Launches New Website with New URL

Yesterday the US Supreme Court launched a new website - complete with a new look and new URL. The Court will now be hosting the site in-house at www.supremecourt.gov. Previously, it had been hosted by the Government Printing Office (GPO) at www.supremecourtus.gov. The GPO URL will redirect users to the new site through July 1, 2010.

Here is a screen shot of the new site:
supct.jpg

According to a press release:

Visitors will find that the Supreme Court Web site has an updated and more user-friendly design. The site continues to provide online access to the Court's slip opinions, orders, oral argument transcripts, schedules, Court rules, bar admission forms, and other familiar information. But it also has several new features, including enhanced search capabilities, an interactive argument calendar, improved graphics, and additional historic information. The Court plans to continue to update and expand the site's features over time. The process of launching the new design may occur over several hours, but the new version of the Web site should be available to all users by the end of the day.

Source: Carolina Blawg

March 17, 2010

PACER Fee and Access Changes

The Judicial Conference of the United States has approved some changes to the PACER system to "improve public access to federal courts by increasing the availability of court opinions and expanding the services and reducing the costs for many users."

  • One change is regarding fees. Users will now not be billed "unless they accrue charges of more than $10 of PACER usage in a quarterly billing cycle, in effect quadrupling the amount of data available without charge. Currently, users are not billed until their accounts total at least $10 in a one-year period."

    Looks like the change means that if you don't spend $10 in a quarter, then your balance reverts back to zero at the start of the next quarter. So, you can get up to $40 worth of free content per year (4 quarters x $10) now versus the previous $10 per year.

  • A pilot was also approved for up to 12 courts to publish federal district and bankruptcy court opinions via FDsys (the sequel to GPO Access). I think that this project has good potential for making opinions more accessible to the public. Although all court opinions are available through PACER free of charge and will remain so, the fact that you have to have a PACER account to view them is off-putting for many public patrons. Putting them of FDsys is a better option.

  • Finally, courts will now be allowed, at the discretion of the presiding judge, to make digital audio recordings of court hearings available online to the public through PACER, for $2.40 per audio file.

    This decision comes after a two-year pilot project in which there was significant interest in accessing the audio files, however during the pilot, there was only an 8 cent access charge. The increase to $2.40 was deemed by the Conference to be "reasonable and come closest to recouping, but not exceeding, costs." Digital audio recording is used in most bankruptcy and district courts.

For more info, see the press release on the US Courts website. Hat tip to Marc Weinberger at the U.S. Courts Library, Western District of Wisconsin.

March 16, 2010

PACER's U.S. Party/Case Index is Now PACER Case Locator

PACER's U.S. Party/Case Index has been replaced by a new search tool called PACER Case Locator. It appears that the underlying data is the same - Case Locator just offers improved search and display capabilities including the ability to:

  • request lists of cases for a specified date range by court type;
  • conduct searches based on chapter, discharge date and dismissal date for bankruptcy cases;
  • access case information for the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation;
  • choose result formats, including HTML, delimited text, and XML which can be easily imported to other programs for analysis;
  • change the sort order of the results displayed; and
  • conduct refined searches within the results of a previous search.

Here's a screen shot of the new Case Locator interfacenewpacer.jpg

As you can see from the old U.S. Party/Case Index screen shot below, it was high time for an interface upgrade. The U.S. Party/Case Index will be available for the next few months to allow users time to become familiar with the capabilities of the new Case Locator. oldpacer.jpg

I'm not sure why they changed the name though - but I never like it when databases change names.

Source: Legal Dockets Online Blog

March 9, 2010

Summary of Changes to the Eastern District of WI Local Rules

Barbara Fritschel at the US Courts Library has created a summary sheet of the many changes to the Eastern District of Wisconsin Local Rules.

She includes changes to the General Local Rules, Civil Local Rules and Local Criminal Rules along with the citations to each.

Update 3/10: A full copy of the rules is available on the court's website.

February 23, 2010

Judge John DiMotto begins a Blog

From The Third Branch by the Wisconsin Court System:

Judge John DiMotto, who has served on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court for 20 years, started a blog on Dec. 3, 2009. It's called "Bench and Bar Experiences/A blog to record and convey the daily experiences of a Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge." The blog can be found at http://johndimotto.blogspot.com.

For more about the blog, see an interview with Judge DiMotto on The Third Branch.

New WI Jury Instruction on Social Media

From The Third Branch by the Wisconsin Court System:

To help judges address electronic communication during trials, the Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instructions Committee recently developed a jury instruction that was disseminated to judges at the Judicial Conference and is also available on CCAP (the Consolidated Court Automation Programs).

Professor David Schultz, chief staff member of the Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, was interviewed by Terry Bell of Wisconsin Public Radio about the new instructions. An audio recording is available online in the WPR Archives ("Online gadgetry during trials cause problems.")

[I can't seem to find the instruction on CCAP - anyone else have any luck?]

February 16, 2010

Gov Doyle Weighs-in on CCAP Access

Governor Jim Doyle addressed CCAP access last week at the Wisconsin Newspaper Association's annual convention.

From the Wisconsin Law Journal:


Judges should decide whether to erase innocent people's cases from online court records, Gov. Jim Doyle said....[adding that] easily accessible electronic records make life a nightmare for people who are charged but later exonerated. The governor's remarks come after an Assembly committee approved a bill that would allow the public to see online records of court cases only where there has been a conviction.

The bill's main sponsor, Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, argues that the mere mention of people in the state's online court database carries a connotation of guilt and can ruin their reputations forever, costing them jobs and housing.

Doyle, a Democrat, said Schneider's bill goes too far but "for those really innocent people ... we have to figure out a way to protect them."

February 10, 2010

Jurors' Use of Electronics Focus of Suggested Instructions

From USCourts.gov:

At its December 2009 meeting, the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) endorsed a set of suggested jury instructions that district judges should consider using to help deter jurors from using electronic technologies to research or communicate about cases on which they serve.

WI Assembly Introduces Another CCAP Bill Which Would Alter Access to Court Records

Last month, the Wisconsin Assembly introduced another bill which would affect access to CCAP. Tony Chan, chair of Government Relations for the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin had this report:

On January 22, 2010, 2009 ASSEMBLY BILL 663 was introduced by Representatives Marlin D. Schneider, Kelda Helen Roys and Annette Polly Williams, and Frederick Kessler. It was referred to Committee on State Affairs and Homeland Security. This bill is similar to AB 340 introduced by Representatives Schneider, Kessler and A. Williams on July 8, 2009.

Currently the Wisconsin state courts maintain a consolidated electronic system known as the Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP). It contains information about civil and criminal cases filed in the circuit courts in this state, including information about the parties and their attorneys; documents filed; and deadlines, decisions, and outcomes of cases. The information on CCAP is available for free on an Internet Web site.

Assembly Bills 340 and 663 are similar in that they both restrict the public access to court records except for a permissible group of users such as judges, attorneys, the media, debt collectors, and employees of state and federal law enforcement agencies. Amendment 2 to A.B. 663 broadens the list of authorized court record viewers to real estate brokers, landlords, and employees or agents of a financial institution.

A.B. 663 also requires the director of state courts to maintain two separate CCAP databases.
One for the listed permissible users and another for the general public. The "general public" database will provide case information only after a court has done one of the following: 1) makes a finding that a person is guilty of a criminal charge; 2) makes a finding that a person is liable in a civil matter; 3) orders a person to be evicted; or 4) issues a restraining order or injunction against the person.

In addition, A.B. 340 requires the public to pay a $10 annual fee and registers his or her name and address with the director of state courts.


The bill status is available on the Wisconsin Legislature's website.

February 3, 2010

New WI Supreme Court & Court of Appeals Cases Delivered Weekly with CaseLaw Express

CaseLaw Express is free weekly email service from the Wisconsin State Bar which lists all decisions handed down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals during the previous week. To subscribe, see the State Bar web site.

Subscribers must reconfirm their interest in receiving this service each year. If you are a subscriber who hasn't verified your subscription yet this year, you must do so before Feb. 14 to avoid service interruption.

Source: WisBar Inside Track

February 2, 2010

Revised Local Rules for Eastern Dist of WI Includes New Section on Citation to Unpublished Materials

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin has published new local rules effective Feb. 1, 2010.

Note in particular new Civil Local Rule 7 (j) governing citations to unpublished materials. It appears below along with the committee comment.

(j) Citations.
(1) With the exception of the prohibitions in Seventh Circuit Rule 32.1, this Court does not prohibit the citation of unreported or nonprecedential opinions, decisions, orders, judgments, or other written dispositions.
(2) If a party cites an unreported opinion, decision, order, judgment or other written disposition, the party must file and serve a copy of that opinion, decision, order, judgment, or other written
disposition.

Committee Comment:

Civil L. R. 7(j) addressing "unreported" or non-precedential authorities is also new. The provision clarifies the Court's existing practice of allowing the citation of authorities in addition to those reported in printed national reporters, with the exception of orders whose citation and consideration is prohibited by Seventh Circuit Rule 32.1. Civil L. R. 7(j) additionally requires a party relying on such an authority to file a copy of that authority and serve it on all parties.

Notably, with the exception of orders subject to Circuit Rule 32.1, the new provision does not bar the citation of decisions or orders even if a rule would bar the citation of the decision to the court that issued the decision or to any other court. The Court may take limitations on the authority's use before other courts, as well as the "unpublished" or "non-precedential" nature of the authority, into consideration when deciding the weight, if any, to be afforded to the authority.

Hat tip to Barbara Fritschel, US Courts Library

January 29, 2010

Judge Tunheim in Defense of PACER

U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim has written a thoughtful piece about PACER for The National Law Journal. Tunheim has been closely involved with PACER as longtime member and chair of the Judicial Conference's Court Admini­stration and Case Management Committee.

In the article, the judge responds to recent questions and criticism's about PACER's fee structure, functionality and privacy protections. Although I encourage you to read the full article, his conclusion offers a summary of his views:


The infrastructure to provide a secure network for all federal court documents is costly. Those costs are borne by PACER's users, not by all taxpayers. Without a stable revenue base there would be no system, as the countless failed attempts to offer public access in other court systems have demonstrated. The bottom line is that, although PACER can and will improve, it already is a safe and vibrant system that makes federal court documents the most readily available in the world.

Hat tip to my law library colleague, Marc Weinberger of the U.S. Courts Library Western District of Wisconsin.

January 21, 2010

Butler Renominated for Western District Seat

The White House announced yesterday that it had renominated former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler for United Stated District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin.

December 15, 2009

WI Sup Court to Consider Proposed Rules for E-Discovery

Next month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed amendments to the state's discovery rules that specifically pertain to electronic discovery.

According to the Wisconsin Lawyer

The amendments are adapted from the Uniform Rules on the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information and the 2006 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The new rules are "intended to provide consistency and predictability in the discovery of electronically stored information." In addition, the rules "are intended to reduce the economic burden that can result from the discovery involving the enormous volume of electronically stored information."...

In summary form, the amendments to the Wisconsin Rules of Civil Procedure are designed to:

1. encourage courts to be more active in managing electronic discovery and production;
2. allow for the production of business records in electronic form;
3. place the burden on the requesting party to specify the form in which electronic discovery is to be produced;
4. impose a safe harbor for a party who has lost electronically stored information as a result of the routine, good-faith operation of an electronic information system; and
5. protect third parties from unreasonable burdens of responding to subpoenas that request electronically stored information.

Read the full article for more.

December 3, 2009

The New Federal Time Computation Amendments of 2009*

On December 1, 2009, new time computation amendments to the federal rules and statutes will become effective. The Time Computation Project, as it is called, proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Appellate Procedure, and Bankruptcy Rules. According to the Standing Rules Committee, "The principal simplifying change in these rules is the adoption of a "days are days" approach to computing all time periods." The Supreme Court approved these amendments on March 26, 2009.

The rules affected include the following:

  • Appellate Rules 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 19, 25, 26, 27, 28.1, 30, 31, 39, and 41;
  • Bankruptcy Rules 1007, 1011, 1019, 1020, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2007.2, 2008, 2015, 2015.1, 2015.2, 2015.3, 2016, 3001, 3015, 3017, 3019, 3020, 4001, 4002, 4004, 6003, 6004, 6006, 6007, 7004, 7012, 8001, 8002, 8003, 8006, 8009, 8015, 8017, 9006, 9027, and 9033;
  • Civil Rules 6, 12, 14, 15, 23, 27, 32, 38, 50, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 59, 62, 65, 68, 71.1, 72, 81; Supplemental Rules B, C, and G; and Illustrative Civil Forms 3, 4, and 60; and
  • Criminal Rules 5.1, 7, 12.1, 12.3, 29, 33, 34, 35, 41, 45, 47, 58, 59, and Rules 8 of the Rules Governing §§ 2254 and 2255 Cases.

The amendments and a number of reports the Court considered regarding the proposed changes may be accessed at http://www.uscourts.gov/rules/supct0309.html.

As required by the Rules Enabling Act, the amendments have been transmitted to Congress. Should Congress take no action regarding the proposed amendments they will become effective December 1, 2009. The new rules may be viewed online at Cornell's Legal Information Institute website. Pending an update, they should also be available at the Federal Judiciary's website.

Several rules committees worked closely with the Department of Justice to identify statutory provisions in the U.S. Code containing short deadlines that should be extended so they calibrate with the time computation changes proposed for the Federal Rules. In all, 29 statutory provisions were identified. The result was the "Statutory Time-Periods Technical Amendments Act of 2009," Public Law 111-16 which was signed into law on May 7, 2009. Like the new Federal Rules, the Act has an effective date of December 1, 2009.

New among the library's print resources is the Federal Civil Rules Handbook (2010 edition). Part III-A of this title covers the "Time Computation" Project. Location: Reserve Collection KF8816 A193. Additional print and online resources will be available shortly.

* This post was written by my UW Law Library colleague, Eric Taylor.

November 18, 2009

Finalists for 7th Circ. Judge Selected

From the Chicago Tribune:
Six finalists from a field of 11 applicants have been selected to fill a pending vacancy on a federal appeals court which handles appeals from Wisconsin and other states. Two of the six finalists are UW-Madison law professors Anuj Desai and Victoria Nourse. Read the article for the full list.

November 17, 2009

Free Case Law Now Available on Google Scholar

Wow - big news last night from Google: Free case law is now available in Google Scholar!

There isn't much description yet from Google, but Internet For Lawyers has a nice run down of the features. Here are some highlights:

Coverage of the database:

  • 1 US 1 (pre 1776)
  • 1 F 2d 1 (1924 +)
  • F Supp Cases
  • US State Cases (1950+)

Go to the Advanced Search page to limit results to:

  • all legal opinions and journals
  • only US Federal court opinions
  • only state court opinions (where you can select any combination of the 50 states and the District of Columbia)

Google Scholar includes the full text of the returned case and links to other cases cited in the returned case.

gsresultsnew.jpg


As cool as this is, remember that free is free and this isn't Westlaw or Lexis. There will be inadequacies of the search and coverage of the database. According to the 2009 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report "respondents are significantly more satisfied with the characteristics of fee-based online legal research resources than they are with those of free online legal research resources."
---------
Update: 9/23/09

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin has a good review of the ups and downs of Google Scholar's legal offerings.

November 13, 2009

A Facebook Alibi

There is an interesting story in this week's New York Times about a robbery suspect cleared because of his Facebook alibi.

His defense lawyer, Robert Reuland, told a Brooklyn assistant district attorney, Lindsay Gerdes, about the Facebook entry, which was made at the time of the robbery. The district attorney subpoenaed Facebook to verify that the words had been typed from a computer at an apartment at 71 West 118th Street in Manhattan, the home of Mr. Bradford's father. When that was confirmed, the charges were dropped.

"This is the first case that I'm aware of in which a Facebook update has been used as alibi evidence," said John G. Browning, a lawyer in Dallas who studies social networking and the law. "We are going to see more of that because of how prevalent social networking has become."

Source: Fastcase blog

November 11, 2009

Federal Court Rules that Twitter Use in Courtroom Violates Fed. R. Crim. P.

From Law.com's Legal Blog Watch:

In United States v. Shelnutt (M.D. Ga. Nov. 2), a federal court in Georgia ruled that Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibits "tweeting" from the courtroom and that Rule 53 does not unconstitutionally restrict freedom of the press....

The immediate result of the court's decision is to reject a request from a reporter for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that he be allowed to use his BlackBerry during the Shellnutt criminal case in order to send updates to his newspaper's Twitter feed.

Source: Ross Blakley Law Library Blog

November 2, 2009

AZ Sup Ct - Metadata in Public Records Subject to Disclosure

From Wired Magazine:

Arizona's Supreme Court, in a surprising but welcome ruling, has declared that electronic metadata is part of the public record under state law, in a case involving an Arizona police officer who suspects his superiors of backdating a document related to his work performance....

The city argued that metadata -- digital information that can reveal when a document was created and subsequently accessed or modified -- was not part of the public record..... But the state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that "if a public entity maintains a public record in an electronic format, then the electronic version, including any embedded metadata, is subject to disclosure under our public records laws."


See the full en banc opinion.

Hat tip to Steve Miller, Chief of the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau

October 12, 2009

Chat Sessions Admitted as Evidence

From Federal Evidence Review:

Internet chatroom conversations about having sex with minors was admissible to show the defendant's knowledge of the age of his victim and absence of mistake under FRE 404(b); a sufficient showing was made that he made the other chats and not other family members who had access to the computer, in United States v. Zahursky, __ F.3d __ (7th Cir. Sept. 1, 2009) (No. 08-1151)

Source: Wisconsin Law Journal

WI Court of Appeals Sanctions Attorney for Sloppy Citation

In an unpublished opinion by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the court imposed a $100 sanction on counsel for a seriously messed up citation. The case is Espitia v. Fouche 314 Wis.2d 507, 758 N.W.2d 224 (Table), 2008 WL 4058057 (Wis.App.), 2008 WI App 160.

FN5. Counsel for Espitia cites to an unpublished case assertedly upholding a stipulated damages clause due to the difficulty of ascertaining "the exact amount of income certain vending machines would produce." The cite provided is " Buellesbach v. Roob, 2005 AP 160 (Ct.App.Dist.I)."

Buellesbach indeed is unpublished but it has nothing to do with liquidated damage clauses or vending machines; it is a misrepresentation case brought by newlyweds against a wedding photographer.

Also, "2005 AP 160" is the docket number, which we discovered only after reaching a dead end at 2005 WI App 160, 285 Wis.2d 472, 702 N.W.2d 433.

At last we located the unpublished case that addresses the subject matter for which counsel cited Buellesbach: Stansfield Vending, Inc. v. Osseo Truck Travel Plaza, LLC, 2003 WI App 201, 267 Wis.2d 280, 670 N.W.2d 558. Different name, different citation, different district (District IV) but, as promised, unpublished. [emphasis added]

It is a violation of Wis. Stat. Rule 809.19(1)(e) to provide citations which do not conform to the Uniform System of Citation and of Wis. Stat. Rule 809.23(3) to cite to unpublished opinions. One reason may be that they can be time-consuming to locate.

A $100 penalty is imposed against Espitia's counsel. See Hagen v. Gulrud, 151 Wis.2d 1, 8, 442 N.W.2d 570 (Ct.App.1989).

Hat tip to Law Librarian Blog

October 6, 2009

Bridge and Dykman to Leave WI's Court of Appeals

JSOnline reports that two judges have announced they will leave the state's Court of Appeals in Madison next year: Burnie Bridge and Charles P. Dykman. See the article for more information.

Governor Doyle has announced that he is seeking applicants for appointment as
District IV Court of Appeals Judge.

Source: The Wheeler Report

October 2, 2009

Comments from the Public Hearing on CCAP Access Changes

Yesterday, the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice held a public hearing at the Capital about the proposed bill that would mean big changes for CCAP access. See my earlier post for more info about the Assembly Bill 340.

Today's JSOnline offers a brief run down of the hearing comments from both privacy advocates in favor of the bill and open government advocates who would like to see it defeated.

Video and audio of the full meeting is available on the WisconsinEye website. Although a few other bills were discussed, the vast majority of the meeting focused on the CCAP discussion.

Source: The Wheeler Report

October 1, 2009

Former WI Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler Nominated as U.S. District Judge for the Western District of WI

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis B. Butler was nominated by President Barack Obama Wednesday for a federal judgeship.

He is being nominated to serve as U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin. He would replace U.S. District Judge John Shabaz, who took senior status in January.

Butler is currently the justice-in-residence lecturer here at the UW Law School.

September 23, 2009

Public Hearing Scheduled for Bill Proposing Restrictions to CCAP Access

As I reported earlier on WisBlawg, there is a bill being considered in the Wisconsin legislature that could mean some pretty big changes for CCAP access.

Tony Chan, Chair of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin Government Relations Committee offers the following summary about the changes and an alert about an upcoming public hearing on the matter.

On July 8, 2009, Representatives Schneider, Kessler and A. Williams introduced AB 340, a bill to restrict access to and limiting information contained in the Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP) and providing a penalty. See History of AB 340.

Under this bill, the director of state courts may only provide case information on CCAP after a court does one of the following:
1) makes a finding that a person is guilty of a criminal charge;
2) makes a finding that a person is liable in a civil matter;
3) orders a person to be evicted; or
4) issues a restraining order or an injunction against a person.


In addition, this bill:
1) allows free access to CCAP to Wisconsin judges or other court officials, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, and accredited journalists;
2) allows access to CCAP information to any other person who pays a $10 annual fee and registers his or her name and address with the director of state courts;
3) requires the director of state courts to keep a registry and log of each user who pays the annual fee that records the searches each user performs.


Under the bill:
1) if a user searches for a person's name on CCAP and subsequently denies the person employment, housing, or another public accommodation, the user must inform the person that he or she searched for the person's record on CCAP. A user who fails to do so may be fined $1,000.
2) upon the written request of a person whose case information is currently available on CCAP, the director of state courts must remove any information relating to a case that did not result in a finding of criminal guilt or civil liability, an order of eviction, or the issuance of a restraining order against the person.

A public hearing will be held on Thursday, October 1, 2009, 10:15 AM (or upon adjournment of the Executive Session) at 328 Northwest State Capitol.


See
MJS editorial regarding this bill
Big Money Blog comments

Sources of State and Federal Court Documents & Case Information

Legal professionals often need to access court documents and case information, but knowing where to find them most efficiently and cost effectively isn't always easy. There several services that provide access to recent court documents - some free and some fee based.

The following is a run-down of available services of which I am aware. If you know of of any others, please share them in the comments.

Federal Courts

PACER (http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov) -
Most recent federal court documents are available via the PACER system. Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information from Federal Appellate, District and Bankruptcy courts. However, users must pay a fee to access PACER - much to the consternation of those who believe that government information should be free.

Free public access to PACER is currently provided in Federal courthouses (see the clerk of courts). Note that the Western Dist of WI charges 50 cents per page for printing. If you wish to set up your own account, note that PACER waives the first $10 of annual costs for each registered user.

FreeCourtDockets (http://freecourtdockets.com) - FreeCourtDockets is a new, free service which allows anyone to retrieve federal civil, criminal, and bankruptcy court dockets. The site is the product of Courtport LLC, but is ad-sponsored. No PACER account is required to view the dockets, but if you wish to view the filings for a case, a PACER account is needed. To retrieve all court dockets except U.S. Supreme cases, you must first obtain an invitation code. To request a free code, you'll need to complete a form on the FreeCourtDockets website.

Justia Federal District Court Filings and Dockets (http://dockets.justia.com) - Justia contains case information from the Federal District Courts. Some cases also include opinions, orders, and other filings.

RECAP (https://www.recapthelaw.org/) - While RECAP isn't technically a tool for locating court documents, it is a useful PACER add-on for Firefox users. Essentially what RECAP does is archive the documents that you view in PACER and then make them available to other RECAP users at no charge. For a glimpse of RECAP in action, watch the short video available on their website. See the features page for more information.


Wisconsin Courts

CCAP (http://www.wicourts.gov/casesearch.htm) Wisconsin uses the CCAP system which contains civil and criminal case information and status reports compiled through the court's Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP) case management system. While you'll find case information and dockets in CCAP, the actual documents filed in the case are generally not available, except for briefs filed on or after July 1, 2009.

Wisconsin Briefs (http://library.law.wisc.edu/eresources/wibriefs/) - For briefs filed before July 2009, try the Wisconsin Briefs database hosted by the UW Law Library. Currently, it contains briefs for Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals published and unpublished cases from 173 Wis.2d (November 1992) through approximately 12-18 months ago.


State and Federal Courts

Westlaw (http://lawschool.westlaw.com) - Westlaw makes accessing court documents very easy. Often at the end of an opinion you'll see links to the briefs and other documents filed in the case. There are also several databases in Westlaw in which you can search for documents directly.

LexisNexis (http://lawschool.lexis.com) - LexisNexis also has several databases containing federal and state court documents. However, it doesn't appear to display links to the documents directly with the opinion as Westlaw does. [LexisNexis users: if I'm wrong about this, let me know]

Westlaw CourtExpress (http://courtexpress.westlaw.com) - CourtExpress is a separate Westlaw product, although you should be able to access it with your regular Westlaw password. It contains state and federal dockets and some filed documents. CourtExpress offers some sophisticated search options, such as jurisdiction, keyword, nature of suit, party name, attorney or judge, date, and more. You can also set up alerts to monitor new cases or track filings in a specific case.


So what happens if you try all these services and still can't find what you need?

If the documents aren't available electronically (which frequently happens with older cases), you may need to contact the clerk of courts to obtain the documents. Note that courts generally charge a fee for document delivery.

September 16, 2009

Court Dismisses Complaint from Woman Who Didn't Like Her Yahoo! Search Results

From Tech Dirt:

Earlier this year, we wrote about a woman named Beverly Stayart, who had sued Yahoo over what she found when she did a search on her name. Her complaint was that some of the links advertised porn sites and possibly contained malware, and that this was a violation of her trademark and privacy rights.....

Earlier this week, the court dismissed the lawsuit against Yahoo and denied Stayart's request to refile. The court had trouble with the idea that this was a trademark claim, noting that just because she does not like how her name is shown, it does not create a trademark violation


The case was filed in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The Decision and Order appears below.
Stayart Decision and Order (041-ECF)

Stamps to Honor Supreme Court Justices

On September 22nd, the U.S. Postal Service will be dedicating four 44-cent stamps honoring Supreme Court justices Joseph Story, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, and William Brennan Jr.


Source: Et Seq.

September 2, 2009

Does Public Records Law Extend to Government Employees' Email ? WI Supreme Court to Decide

There is a very interesting article in the latest InsideTrack regarding a case pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court on "whether the public's right to know what its government is up to extends to reading the personal emails government employees sent from work."

The case involves a public records request sent by a citizen to the Wisconsin Rapids School District seeking emails "from the computer [the teachers] use during their school work day" from March 1, 2007 through April 13, 2007. The school district made the decision to release the emails; several teachers objected to the release of purely personal emails that did not relate to the school district or to any official acts of government.

According the the article, "the supreme court accepted the teachers' appeal after the Wisconsin Court of Appeals certified the case in April. The teachers seek reversal of the circuit court decision and an order to enjoin the school district from releasing their personal emails."

WSLL Offers E-Filing Class

To assist attorneys who are now required to submit electronic copies of briefs and other documents when litigating matters at the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, the Wisconsin State Law Library is offering a class entitled, E-filing: Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The class will be held Tuesday, Sept. 22, 9:30 - 10:30 a.m. at the Wisconsin State Law Library.

In this one-hour session, David Schanker, Clerk of Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, will explain the new rule and provide technical guidance on how to create and file electronic documents. This is an opportunity for attorneys and legal assistants to gain practical skills and an understanding of the new e-filing requirements.

Cost: $35.00. 1 CLE credit applied for. Registration is limited to 20. Pre-Register Online | Print Registration Form

Source: WSLL @ Your Service

August 31, 2009

Federal Judiciary to Assess PACER

From the PACER Service Center:

The Federal Judiciary has undertaken a year-long, comprehensive program assessment. The goal of the assessment is to identify potential enhancements to existing services and new public access services that could be provided. We are gathering information through focus groups, interviews, and surveys. Please be aware you may be solicited about your views about PACER and our services with an eye towards what you, the customer, would like to see in the future.
If you have any questions about this assessment, please contact the PACER Service Center at pacer@psc.uscourts.gov.

August 14, 2009

RECAP Firefox Add-on - Access PACER Docs for Free; Contribute New Docs to Archive

I'm excited about a new Firefox add on called RECAP that "improves the experience of using PACER, the electronic public access system for the U.S. Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts."

According to the website, RECAP:

  • Helps you give back: Contributes to a public archive hosted by the Internet Archive
  • Saves you money: Shows you when free documents are available
  • Keeps you organized: Gives you better filenames, enables useful headers

For a glimpse of RECAP in action, I highly recommend that you watch the short video available on their website. See the features page for more information.

RECAP is a project of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. The RECAP repository is hosted by the Internet Archive and they already working with Justia and public.resource.org to integrate the public records they already have into the RECAP archive.

Hat tip to Erika Wayne via the ALL-SIS listserv.

August 13, 2009

Does Posting Briefs in Database Violate Copyright?

The Volokh Conspiracy examines the question of whether Lexis and Westlaw infringe copyright when they post briefs filed in court.

Read more:

The argument for infringement is actually moderately strong. Like most other documents, briefs are protected by copyright the moment they are written. The fact that they're filed in court doesn't waive any copyright. Lexis and Westlaw's distribution of the briefs is thus presumptively copyright infringement.

August 4, 2009

Docket Number Searching Available via Justia Docket Search

Nicholas from Justia just let me know that case number searching is now available on Justia's Docket Search. He was responding to an earlier WisBlawg post which indicated that case number searching was not available.

His comment appears below:

I just wanted to make one slight comment on Justia having no case number searching. Actually we do. We haven't documented it yet, but if you put a case number in the #:####cv##### format (4 digit year, no hyphens) into the Party Search, it will search for a case by case number.

For an example, here is a search of the Western Washington District Court for case number 2:2009cv0108 which is the recent Amazon case.

August 3, 2009

FreeCourtDockets Sets Limit on Number of Free Dockets per Day

In response to rising demand and rising cost, FreeCourtDockets has set a limit on the number of free dockets that users can obtain daily.

From a recent email:

The word has been quickly spreading about FreeCourtDockets, many people have been granted invite codes, and our costs have quickly risen. To manage these costs we have been forced to implement a limit on how much docket data a person can obtain in a single day.

Pacer charges us eight cents per page with a cap of $2.40 for dockets. We have made your daily limit $2.40. This means you can obtain $2.40 worth of dockets from us for free every day. This could be one 200 page docket, 30 one page dockets, etc. This does not apply to U.S. Supreme Court Dockets--there is no limit on the amount of dockets you can retrieve.


For more about FreeCourtDockets, see my earlier post.

"Suggested Practices" for Federal Judges when Citing Internet Sources in Opinions

From The Third Branch, newsletter of the Federal Courts:

The Judicial Conference has issued a series of "suggested practices" to assist courts in the use of Internet materials in opinions. The recommendations follow a pilot project conducted by circuit librarians who captured and preserved webpages cited in opinions over a six-month period....

In approving those recommendations in March 2009, the Judicial Conference agreed that all Internet materials cited in final opinions be considered for preservation, while each judge should retain the discretion to decide whether the specific cited resource should be captured and preserved....

The guidelines suggest that, if a webpage is cited, chambers staff preserve the citation by downloading a copy of the site's page and filing it as an attachment to the judicial opinion in the Judiciary's Case Management/Electronic Case Files System. The attachment, like the opinion, would be retrievable on a non-fee basis through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system....

The Judicial Conference also recommended that the Judiciary avoid including in final opinions working hyperlinks that lead directly to materials contained within commercial vendor databases to prevent a stated or implied endorsement or preferential treatment. To the extent that a court determines that such hyperlinks are to be used in opinions, it is recommended that an appropriate disclaimer be provided.

July 14, 2009

Access to Justice Commission Formed: New WI Supreme Court Rule 14

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has created Chapter 14 of the Supreme Court Rules, establishing the Access to Justice Commission.

The Wisconsin Lawyer has a copy of the full order. From the Creation and Purpose section (SCR 14.02):

(1) In order to aid the courts in improving the administration of justice by supporting civil legal services to those who cannot afford them, the State bar shall create an Access to Justice Commission.
(2) The mission of the Commission is to develop and encourage means of expanding access to the civil justice system for unrepresented low income Wisconsin residents.

An earlier article from the State Bar has more information about the Commission.

Thanks to my colleague, Jenny Zook for sharing this with me.

July 13, 2009

Appellate Briefs Now Available in CCAP

"Attorneys and the public can also freely access appellate briefs online" reports the Wisconsin Law Journal in an article on status of the new electronic filing system for Wisconsin's appellate courts.

While [Wisconsin Supreme Court Clerk of Court David R.] Schanker conceded that the new rules are designed to be more "user-friendly" for judges, he noted that attorneys and the public can also freely access appellate briefs online.

"If the lawyer is registered in the system, he or she can go in and look at briefs and other documents," Schanker said.

Attorneys who aren't registered and the general public can access briefs through the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Access (WSCCA) Web site (http://www.wicourts.gov/) .

A commenter to the WLJ article, quotes from an article Schanker wrote in the State Bar Appellate Practice newsletter (republished in InsideTrack):

Text Search of E-Filed Briefs.

E-filed briefs will now be available to the public through the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Case Access (WSCCA) case search. In the past, users were able to view the opinions in disposed-of cases on WSCCA, but users will now be able to view briefs as they are filed.

In addition, the new "Document Search" feature (on the right side of the banner at the top of the screen) allows users to enter a word or phrase and search the entire database of e-filed briefs. The search will retrieve a list of all briefs containing the word or phrase, and each brief can be viewed and searched.

Wow - somehow I'd missed this in the e-filing announcements. I see now that there is indeed a new "Document Search" link at the top of the WSCCA CCAP page. Here's a screen shot of the search page:
briefsearch.jpg
And here is one showing the search results:
dnr.jpg

Briefs filed on or after July 1, 2009 are available in CCAP in text-searchable format. And don't forget that older briefs (filed from November 1992 onward) are available on our University of Wisconsin Law Library web site in scanned form.

Updated Guide to the Preservation of Federal Judges' Papers

From the U.S. Courts Newsroom:

A recent publication discusses the importance of federal judges' papers as a documentary record of their careers and the work of the federal courts.

A Guide to the Preservation of Federal Judges' Papers was first published in 1996 and has proved to be one of the most frequently requested publications from the Federal Judicial Center's History Office. Many judicial biographies and court histories rely on the collections of judicial papers that federal judges donate to research libraries and archives. From these scholarly works come the educational materials that contribute to public understanding of the federal judiciary. This guide is designed to help judges when they are considering the historical value of their chambers papers and selecting a repository for donation of their personal records.

July 9, 2009

Bill Could Mean Big Changes for CCAP Access

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 340, introduced yesterday, could mean some big changes for CCAP. The bill would limit what information is made accessible and when, and it would require many users to register and pay an annual fee.

From the LRB analysis section of the bill:

The information on CCAP is available for free on an Internet Web site. The Web site has no limitations on who has access to the information, although information in certain types of cases is not available to the public. CCAP allows a user to search for all civil and criminal cases in which a person or entity, who is the subject of the search, has been a party...

Under this bill, the director of state courts may only provide case information on CCAP after a court does one of the following: 1) makes a finding that a person is guilty of a criminal charge; 2) makes a finding that a person is liable in a civil matter; 3) orders a person to be evicted; or 4) issues a restraining order or an injunction against a person.

The bill allows free access to CCAP to Wisconsin judges or other court officials, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, and accredited journalists. The bill allows access to CCAP information to any other person who pays a $10 annual fee and registers his or her name and address with the director of state courts. The bill requires the director of state courts to keep a registry and log of each user who pays the annual fee that records the searches each user performs. Under the bill, if a user searches for a person's name on CCAP and subsequently denies the person employment, housing, or another public accommodation, the user must inform the person that he or she searched for the person's record on CCAP. A user who fails to do so may be fined $1,000.

Under the bill, upon the written request of a person whose case information is currently available on CCAP, the director of state courts must remove any information relating to a case that did not result in a finding of criminal guilt or civil liability, an order of eviction, or the issuance of a restraining order against the person.

July 8, 2009

More on FreeCourtDockets - Who are we and why are we giving away Pacer dockets for free?

In response to numerous questions, FreeCourtDockets answers the question "Who are we and why are we giving away Pacer dockets for free?"

From an email that I received yesterday:

FreeCourtDockets is maintained by Courtport, LLC. We feel federal court dockets, like other public records should be free and freely available via the Internet. While others fight with the government on this issue, we are trying a faster route using an ad-supported model.

We can't do this without your help. As you are probably aware Google ads do not generate a lot of revenue, and the ads can be ugly and less than useful sometimes. We are seeking reputable, quality advertisers and sponsors to help pay our pacer bills. We also accept donations--no amount is too big or too small. If you are interested in advertising, sponsoring or donating, or know someone who might be, please contact us.

As I suspected, this explains the extreme amount of ads. But, I can live with the ads when the content is free.

July 1, 2009

Jureeka! Makes it Easy to Link to Cases & Statutes in E-Filed Appellate Briefs

Beginning today, July 1, 2009, Wisconsin attorneys must electronically file a copy of all appellate briefs, no-merit reports, petitions for review, and responses. For more on these requirements, see Mandatory appellate e-filing begins July 1, 2009 in InsideTrack from the State Bar of Wisconsin.

One thing that the article doesn't mention is that attorneys may include links to cases or statutes cited in their briefs, as long as the source is free. For the full rule, see page five of the Supreme Court Rules regarding electronic filing of documents per the Wisconsin's Court Systems eFiling page. It reads:

Electronic briefs may be enhanced with internal links (such as a table of contents with links to locations in the brief) or external links (links to websites containing the text of cases or statutes cited in the brief). External links in an electronic brief shall not require a password for access to the case or statute. No enhancement to an electronic brief shall alter the text of the brief.

If you'd like to add such links to your briefs but aren't sure how to find them, I recommend giving Jureeka! a try.

A few months ago I blogged about Jureeka!, noting that it is a Firefox add-on that looks for legal citations in ordinary web pages and turns them into hyperlinks that lead to a free version of the cited source. Pretty handy for web-based research.

But Jureeka! also installs a toolbar in Firefox which allows you to search for source material by legal citation. See the screen shot below.
jureeka1.jpg
After you enter in your citation and click "Find by citation" you'll be directed to a page that offers you a link to your desired document, if it is available.

Once you reach the desired website with your source, simply copy the URL at the top and paste into your brief.
jureeka3.jpg

Jureeka! is great for quickly locating links to statutes, case law, regulations, federal court rules, international law sources, and more. It has a success rate of around 92%.

For more about this neat tool, including a list of citation types included, see the Jureeka! blog.

Thanks to my colleague, Lynne Gehrke, for helping me recognize this new use for Jureeka!

June 26, 2009

The Effect of Furloughs on State Court System

The Wisconsin Law Journal reports that furloughs for more than 570 non-judicial staff of the Wisconsin court system are on the horizon, but how they will be implemented is yet to be determined.

From the article:

On June 23, Gov. Jim Doyle signed an executive order which calls for employees of state agencies and the University of Wisconsin system to take eight days (64 hours) of unpaid leave during each fiscal year of the next biennium...

State court employees are not subject to Doyle's order, noted Radloff, but the budget does cut approximately $1.9 million annually in salaries for non-judicial court staff.

"Basically, the money taken from the budget is the equivalent of the eight days per year," said Radloff, who still expected additional furloughs to be discussed.

Keith Sellen, who oversees the 29 state employees at the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), said it is hard to estimate to what extent closing the office for the equivalent of almost two weeks throughout the next biennium would have on efficiency.

"Assuming it's eight [days] for the next two years, it will have some impact," Sellen said.

"It may result in some minor delays, but I'm not sure what percentage of time will be lost."

New Source for Free Federal Court Dockets - No PACER Required

FreeCourtDockets is a new, free service which allows anyone to retrieve federal civil, criminal, and bankruptcy court dockets, as well as dockets from the US Supreme Court, Court of Claims, and Court of International Trade. The site is the product of Courtport LLC.

No PACER account is required to view the dockets, but if you wish to view the filings for a case, a PACER account is needed. FreeCourtDockets provides direct links to the filings in PACER.

To retrieve all court dockets except U.S. Supreme cases, you must first obtain an invitation code. To request a free code, you'll need to complete a form on the FreeCourtDockets website. Requests are usually answered within twenty four hours.

I received my invitation code this morning and decided to take the service for a spin. The process was cumbersome, but the results were as advertised.

When you first go to http://www.freecourtdockets.com/, you're led through two introduction screens before you even start searching. While this is fine for the first time, I'd rather not have to do this every time. Therefore, in the future, I think I'll probably create my bookmark a few pages in.

The first search page asks you to select a court type: U.S. District Civil or Criminal, U.S. Bankruptcy, U.S. Courts of Appeals, U.S. Appellate (Supreme and Courts of Appeals), U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and U.S. Court of International Trade. You're then prompted to complete a captcha to ensure that the response is not generated by a computer.
choosecourttype.jpg

I chose U.S. District Civil or Criminal and was taken to a new page in which I was asked to specify a specific jurisdiction. My choice there was the Wisconsin Eastern District Court which took me to another page asking for the docket number and my invitation code. Click count so far: 4.
docketnumberpage.jpg

Note that FreeCourtDockets does not offer name searching capabilities. You can only retrieve dockets when you already know the court and case/docket number. Now, this might be a pretty big stumbling block were it not for Justia's Federal District Court Filings and Dockets search. Justia allows you to search by a combination of case name, jurisdiction, law suit type and date. Its search results offer information about cases filed, including the docket number, but does not offer the full docket itself (very similar to Wisconsin's CCAP).
justiaview.jpg

So, I sauntered over to Justia, did a search for civil rights cases in the Eastern District of Wisconsin and pulled up a docket number. Then I went back to FreeCourtDockets and entered in that docket number, albeit with a bit of format massaging. Then I also entered my invitation code.

Next, I'm directed to a page which asks me to verify the case I want. After doing so, I finally arrive at a case with the case information. Click count at this point: 7. But, still no docket - that requires yet another click.
caseinfo.jpg

And I've not yet mentioned that a huge amount of ads appear along with way. Could this be the reason for the cumbersome amount of clicks - so that I'm forced to view as many ads as possible? Perhaps. But, hey, it's free. I'm not complaining too loudly.

But after all those ads and clicks (8 page clicks in all), my patience is finally rewarded with the full docket, much as it looks in PACER. And the links to obtain the filings in PACER are there also.
docket.jpg

Where FreeCourtDockets is getting the docket content is unclear. I couldn't find anything on the site that answers that question. But, judging from the obvious visual similarities to PACER, one might suspect that it's coming directly from PACER itself.

How they are able to offer this content for free is also uncertain, but I wonder if that is what all those ads are for. Note that the Help page states that "We will continue to expand our site to include U.S. courts of appeals, docket browsing, and free pdf access when adequate funding is received from sponsors, advertisers, and from your donations."

So is FreeCourtDockets the best thing since sliced bread? No - Justia's search capabilities and ease of use kicks it butt across the playground. But, is it still very useful? Yes - it's the only source I know of for free federal court dockets.

Now if PACER would just pony up and offer its content for free, that would really be something. And could you imagine if there were a product that combined Justia's search capabilities and PACER's content? Ooh, just the thought makes me giddy!

June 25, 2009

Citation of Unpublished Opinions in WI Begins July 1st

From the Wisconsin Law Journal:

July 1 will be a landmark day in Wisconsin legal history.

Starting that day, attorneys will be allowed to cite some unpublished Court of Appeals' opinions. Unpublished but authored opinions issued on July 1 or after can be cited for persuasive, but not precedential, authority. Per curiam opinions and summary dispositions still won't be citable.

June 22, 2009

Petition to Improve PACER

Erika Wayne of Stanford Law School has spearheaded a petition to improve PACER and make it more widely available. The PACER service provides on-line access to U.S. Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy court records and documents nationwide.

The petition reads:

We ask the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to improve PACER by enhancing the authenticity, usability and availability of the system.

We the undersigned, urge the Administrative Office of the US Courts (AO) to make the following changes to the PACER system:

For verification and reliability, the AO should digitally sign every document put into PACER using readily available technology.

PACER needs to be much more readily accessible if it is to be usable for research, education, and the practice of law. Improved accessibility includes both lowering the costs for using PACER and enhancing the web interfaces.

Depository libraries should also have free access to PACER.

If you would like to sign the petition, you are invited to do so online.

May 22, 2009

The Third Branch Articles on New Judges & Citation of Unpublished Opinions

The Third Branch newsletter from the Wisconsin court system has several interesting articles:

May 14, 2009

Ex Parte Blogging and the Supreme Court

Social Media Law Student reviews a recent student note in the Stanford Law Review which claims that blogs can and eventually will influence the Supreme Court.

In Rachel C. Lee's article, she discusses the flaws in the current ethics law to handle this form of ex parte communication with the court. "Ex Parte Blogging: The Legal Ethics of Supreme Court Advocacy in the Internet Era" is an interesting article. Lee's argument stems from the influence bloggers had on Kennedy v. Louisiana....

Lee argues that the current ethical rules are insufficient to properly prevent attorneys from using blogs as an ex parte form of communication with the Court. The note's biggest suggestion is the implementation of a new rule of professional conduct.

GPS Tracking by Police Reviewed by Wisconsin Court of Appeals

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinellast week:

The 4th District Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the secret use by police of a GPS tracking device to gather evidence against a Dane County man accused of stalking an ex-girlfriend.

But the court also urged the state Legislature to consider regulating police and private use of the technology.

For more news stories on this topic, see Google News.

April 30, 2009

Judicial Council Petitions for Rules Changes on Electronic Discovery

The Wisconsin Judicial Council has presented petition to the state Supreme Court proposing "amendments to the Wisconsin rules of discovery in direct response to the unavoidable increase in the discovery of electronically stored information."

From the petition:

A key goal of these proposed rule changes is to increase judicial efficiency in the circuit courts by improving consistency and predictability in the discovery of electronically stored information. The proposed rule changes are also intended to reduce the economic burden on litigants that can result from discovery involving an enormous volume of electronically stored information....

The proposed amendments contained herein are adapted from the Uniform Rules on the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information and the 2006 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Source: Milwaukee Federalists

April 24, 2009

Appeals Court Rules that TurnItIn Plagiarism Detection Service Does Not Violate Students' Copyrights

A recent decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that students' copyrights were not violated by plagiarism detection service TurnItIn, even though the works were archived.

From ars technica:

The federal decision (PDF) reads like a primer on "fair use," which was the legal doctrine that TurnItIn relied upon for its activities.

TurnItIn has known for years that this would be a sensitive issue, and in 2002 commissioned an opinion (PDF) from law firm Foley & Lardner. The group concluded that the use of the papers constituted fair use, but admitted that "the archival of a submitted work is perhaps the most legally sensitive aspect of the TURNITIN system." The lawyers argue that because the text is not displayed or distributed to anyone, it can hardly be called "infringement." Fair use should allow TurnItIn to do what it does.

A federal court agreed that this was legal, for two reasons. First, TurnItIn required students to enter into a "binding agreement" when they uploaded papers to the site. Second, TurnItIn's use was "fair" according to the four factors found in US copyright law, with most weight being given to the "transformative" nature of what TurnItIn was doing with the papers.

The Appeals Court agreed with this analysis. "Plaintiffs also argue that [Parent company] iParadigms' use of their works cannot be transformative because the archiving process does not add anything to the work--TurnItIn merely stores the work unaltered and in its entirety. This argument is clearly misguided," wrote the court.

Source: Library Link of the Day

Case Reversed for Allowing Wikipedia as Evidence

From the North Jersey Crime Examiner:

A Bergen County [NJ] judge mistakenly let a collection company lawyer cover a gap in evidence against a credit-card holder by using a Wikipedia page, a state appeals court has ruled.

"[I]t is entirely possible for a party in litigation to alter a Wikipedia article, print the article and thereafter offer it in support of any given position," the appeals justices wrote, referring to the "anyone can edit" online encyclopedia.

"Such a malleable source of information is inherently unreliable and clearly not one whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned," they added.

In doing so, the appeals panel tossed out a collection judgment... of more than $30,500.

Source: Legal Research Plus

April 14, 2009

Diploma Privilege: 7th Circ. Questions State-focus of Legal Education in WI; Law Prof. Responds

In his blog, BYU Law professor, Gordon Smith, formerly of the UW Law School, responds to criticism leveled by several Seventh Circuit judges who question the state-focus of legal education in Wisconsin as related to the diploma privilege.

The criticisms are in response to a case before the court which is "challenging the privilege as a violation of the dormant commerce clause, by treating the in-state law schools and their graduates more favorably than those from out-of-state."

"Defending the privilege in her brief to the court, Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Sloan Lattis asserted that the privilege is justifiable because it is an 'undisputed fact that only Wisconsin law schools systematically instruct in Wisconsin law.' "

Judges Richard Posner, Diane Wood, and Kenneth F. Ripple all challenged this assertion. Posner specifically stated that he doubted there is any Wisconsin content taught in Wisconsin law schools and later, he called the contention that there is such content "a complete fiction," and bluntly said, "I don't believe you. I don't believe the courses are any different from those in Indiana or Illinois."

Professor Smith refutes this criticism: "As a former contracts law professor at Wisconsin, I can attest that every section of Contracts uses the so-called 'Wisconsin Materials,' which are heavy on Wisconsin law."

He also points to the "strong Wisconsin focus in the work of the Remington Center" and the school's "long tradition -- expressed in the University's Wisconsin Idea -- of connecting the study of law to the State of Wisconsin" through state-focused scholarly works.

In summary, Smith states that

This blog post is not offered as a complete justification of the State's defense of the diploma privilege, but rather as some mild pushback on the assumption that the University of Wisconsin Law School is no different from law schools in Indiana, Illinois, North Dakota, or Oklahoma. While Wisconsin prides itself on being a national law school, the connection to Wisconsin was still much in evidence while I was there.
Read more about the case at the Wisconsin Law Journal

April 2, 2009

Sealed Cases to Appear in Case Lists in PACER

From The Third Branch (newsletter of the federal courts):

The Judicial Conference, in its continuing efforts to ensure appropriate public access to court files, has voted to make federal court sealed cases more readily apparent.

The Conference, acting at its March 17 meeting, voted to have Internet lists of civil and criminal cases in district courts include a case number and generic name, such as "Sealed vs. Sealed," for each sealed case....

Currently, PACER lists of sequentially numbered district court cases skip the sealed cases, but a member of the public could query the missing case number directly and would see a message stating that the case "is under seal."

March 31, 2009

Federal Nominating Commission Recommendations for Vacancy at U.S. District Court -Western District of WI

On Monday, the Federal Nominating Commission announced its recommendations for the pending vacancy for the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The opening results from the retirement of Judge John Shabaz.

The four individuals recommended for consideration for the pending vacancy are (in alphabetical order):

  • Louis B. Butler, Jr.
  • William M. Conley
  • Ramona A. Gonzalez
  • Stephen J. Meyer

From the Federal Nominating Commission press release on WisBar

March 11, 2009

CCAP Upgrades Security and E-file Presentation for Judges

According to The Third Branch, the newsletter of the Wisconsin Court System, CCAP is undergoing some security upgrades. It seems that the majority of these recommendations will have an impact only on CCAP staff, but some will be noticeable to CCAP users. Some of the updates include:

  • Authenticating new users
  • Implementing OS patches
  • Implement hard drive encryption
  • Securing router connections

The Third Branch also reports that the latest CCAP software includes a new case file presentation designed to help judges and court commissioners to find, read and sign documents electronically.

March 5, 2009

Joe Lieberman Grills Federal Judiciary About PACER System

From The National Law Journal:

Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., has asked the policy body of the federal judiciary why it continues to charge the public and lawyers for access to electronically filed documents and whether enough is being done to protect the personal data collected by courts.

The senator, who is head of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, expressed concern in a Feb. 27 letter that the federal judiciary had a $150 million surplus in its technology fund as of fiscal year 2006 yet continues to charge the public and lawyers $.08 per page for access to documents.

Lieberman also raised concerns "that not enough has been done to protect personal information contained in publicly available court rulings, potentially violating another provision of the E-Government Act." He referred to research from Carl Malamud's organization which found thousands of privacy violations in scanning documents.

Source: aall-advoc listserv

March 2, 2009

Pittsburgh Couple Loses Privacy Case Against Google Maps Street View

"A couple in Pittsburgh whose lawsuit claimed that Street View on Google Maps is a reckless invasion of their privacy lost their case." Read more from CNet News:

Aaron and Christine Boring sued the Internet search giant last April, alleging that Google "significantly disregarded (their) privacy interests" when Street View cameras captured images of their house beyond signs marked "private road." The couple claimed in their five-count lawsuit that finding their home clearly visible on Google's Street View caused them "mental suffering" and diluted their home value. They sought more than $25,000 in damages and asked that the images of their home be taken off the site and destroyed.

However, the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania wasn't impressed by the suit and dismissed it (PDF) Tuesday, saying the Borings "failed to state a claim under any count."

Source: Search Engine Watch

February 13, 2009

Malamud Takes on PACER

The New York Times has an interesting article about Carl Malamud's attempt to gather district court records from PACER and make they freely available on the Web.

Those courts, with the help of the Government Printing Office, had opened a free trial of Pacer at 17 libraries around the country. Mr. Malamud urged fellow activists to go to those libraries, download as many court documents as they could, and send them to him for republication on the Web, where Google could get to them.

Aaron Swartz, a 22-year-old Stanford dropout and entrepreneur who read Mr. Malamud's appeal, managed to download an estimated 20 percent of the entire database: 19,856,160 pages of text.

Then on Sept. 29, all of the free servers stopped serving. The government, it turns out, was not pleased.

A notice went out from the Government Printing Office that the free Pacer pilot program was suspended, "pending an evaluation." A couple of weeks later, a Government Printing Office official, Richard G. Davis, told librarians that "the security of the Pacer service was compromised. The F.B.I. is conducting an investigation."

It's not mentioned in the full article, but I assume that the documents were gathered through Public.Resource.org's PACER recycling center.

Thanks to my colleague, Howard Nash, for passing this article on.

December 29, 2008

WI Supreme Court Takes Step Toward Creation of Legal Aid Organization

Wisconsin's Supreme Court has taken the first step toward creating a nonprofit organization to provide more legal help for the poor, reports JS Online. "This month, the court voted 6-0, with Justice David Prosser abstaining, to direct its staff to work with the State Bar of Wisconsin and other officials on a draft order authorizing the nonprofit group."

State Bar wrote in its petition:

About 80% of (Wisconsin) households with a legal need go without (it). .?.?. Legal service providers in Wisconsin report that for every eligible client they serve, they must turn away another client, simply for lack of funds.

There is no consensus on the court at this time over how that corporation might work, who would serve on its board and who would pay for it.

December 16, 2008

Australian Court Serves Documents via Facebook

An Australian court has ordered that a default judgement could be served on defendants by notification on Facebook. The courts already allow service by email and text message.

Read more from the Sydney Morning Herald: "Australian courts are regarded as being amongst the most technologically advanced in the world, and this innovation goes to further that claim."

Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing doesn't think much of the idea: "It's like serving notice on me by sticking a post-it on a toilet wall on which someone has written "Cory wuz heer" and declaring it legal.
--------
Update: Here's more from the Telegraph (UK) - thanks to my colleague, Nancy Paul for the tip.

December 3, 2008

Free Access to English Reports, 1220-1873

Free access to the English Reports from 1220-1873 is now available from the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII).

The English Reports database contains 124,882 cases and the full text of the Reports are searchable. Users are then provided with the original image of a case when it appears in the search results, sorted in likely order of relevance (date ranking may also be used). The cases are may also be browsed by year or alphabetically.

November 24, 2008

Judge Disallows Electronic Legal Research Cost Recovery

A federal judge has disallowed attorneys to recover electronic legal research fees as part of a $31.5 million settlement against Coca-Cola.

From Law.com:

Among the expenses [U.S. District Court Judge Willis B.] Hunt disallowed was $93,960.67 for LexisNexis, Westlaw and Online Library Research, writing, "This Court is of the opinion that charging separately for use of a research service is akin to charging for the use of a case law reporter. That is, the research service is a tool, much like a computer or a pen, and this Court considers the use of such a service part of a firm's overhead. ... Moreover, this Court is aware that many firms pay a flat rate to Lexis and Westlaw regardless of their usage, and class counsel cannot claim such flat rate payments as an out-of-pocket expense."

Source: Vancouver Law Librarian Blog & Law Firm Bottom_Line

October 31, 2008

WI Appellate Courts Briefs to be Filed and Made Available Electronically

From the Wisconsin Law Journal:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Oct. 28 took another step in broadening an electronic filing system for attorneys, but the court also made it known it is not willing to go entirely paperless anytime soon.

Starting on July 1, 2009, attorneys in the state will be expected to file briefs and no-merit reports with state appellate courts and petitions for review and subsequent responses with the Supreme Court, both in paper and electronic form....

While the court accepted the majority of the original revisions to Wis. Stat. Secs. 809.19, 809.32 , 809.62 and 809.80, the justices did make one significant modification to increase the benefits for attorneys.

At the behest of Justice David T. Prosser, the court decided to allow electronically filed appellate briefs to be accessed by members of the general public. But the court also ruled that brief appendices, which will not have to be electronically filed by attorneys, also will not be publicly available on-line....

Several justices suggested that other attorneys may be interested in reading briefs about cases which may be parallel to ones they are involved with, but the court also will allow parties involved in the cases to redact confidential information, if necessary.

October 16, 2008

WI Courts to Allow Citation of Unpublished Opinions

On Oct. 14, the Wisconsin Supreme Court adopted in principle Judicial Council petition 08-02 to amend Wis. Stat. § Rule 809.23(3) to allow citation of unpublished opinions for their persuasive value. An audio recording of the hearing is available from the WI Courts.

The Judicial Council petition states:
unpublished.jpg

The supreme court adopted the concept of citing unpublished opinions for persuasive value with the following amendments to the Council's petition:

1. Citations will be limited to authored opinions signed by one or three judges, in civil and criminal cases, and does not include per curiam.
2. Only opinions issued as of July 1, 2009, will be citable.
3. Counsel must submit a copy of any unpublished opinion being cited to opposing counsel.
4. The court will appoint a committee to set up procedure to identify materials that would allow an evaluation and to determine what statistics shall be noted. The court will review the rule in 2011.
5. The rule will include Judicial Council note: Section (3) was revised to reflect that unpublished opinions are increasingly available in electronic form. This change also conforms to the practice in numerous other jurisdictions, and is compatible with, though more limited than, Fed. R. App. P. 32.1, which abolished any restriction on the citation of unpublished federal court opinions, judgment, orders and dispositions issued on or after Jan. 1, 2007. The revision to Section (3) does not alter the non-precedential nature of unpublished Wisconsin appellate opinions.

Source: WisBar.org
------------
Update: See this Wisconsin Law Journal article for some analysis of the decision.

October 9, 2008

CircuitCourtPro Offers Customized Notifications of WI Circuit Court Filings

The folks behind Foreclosure Alarm have expanded their offerings and now offer real-time notification of filings for all case types in the Wisconsin circuit courts. The new product is called CircuitCourtPro. Like Foreclosure Alarm, the data is derived from CCAP.

Here's how it works:

  • You decide what types of new cases you are interested in and in what geographic area
  • Each morning, you receive a spreadsheet containing the names and addresses of all new cases that match your criteria
  • Data is specifically formatted for Microsoft Word mail merge

CircuitCourtPro is pretty much the same as ForeclosureAlarm, but for all case types. The price is currently $40/month. A free trial is available.

So what's the difference between CircuitCourtPro and CCAP itself? Although the data is derived from CCAP, CircuitCourtPro's notification service is unique. While CCAP does offer RSS feeds now, they are only available for the basic search. There seems to be no way to get a CCAP feed based on a class code or case type search. Plus, CircuitCourtPro also offers downloadable spread sheets for mail merging.

According to developer, Philip Crawford there are plans to offer calendar integration in the future.

October 3, 2008

Proposed 2009 Milwaukee County Budget Includes Court Staff Cuts

The Wisconsin Law Journal reports on the 2009 Milwaukee County budget proposal.

From the article:

In his 2009 proposal, [County Executive Scott] Walker plans to abolish 27 staff positions, not mandated by the state, to help offset a multi-million dollar hole in the court's budget....

The most substantial cuts would be nine legal research interns who serve in a dual capacity as bailiffs and law clerks, according to Kremers. Walker plans to replace the interns with nine administrative assistants, at half the cost.

Milwaukee County Clerk of Court John Barrett said he would have a tough time attracting people to do twice the work for half the pay.

"We have lawyers in those positions now and you are not going to get a lot them to provide bailiff services with no benefits for about $10 an hour," said Barrett, who added that legal interns currently earn about $20 per hour.

Barrett also addressed eight deputy court clerk positions slated to be cut by Walker.

Barrett said that state statute requires clerks be present for court proceedings and if four in both the Misdemeanor/Traffic Division and Civil Division are eliminated, proceedings could be delayed.

October 1, 2008

Free PACER Pilot Program Suspended Pending Evaluation

Barco Law Library reports that the 2-year free PACER pilot program has been suspended pending evaluation. [What is PACER?]

A notice went out that "GPO and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts undertook a pilot to provide free public access to Federal court records at 17 Federal depository libraries through (PACER) ....The pilot has been suspended, pending an evaluation. Once the evaluation is complete, the judiciary and the GPO will determine what steps need to be taken in order to move forward.The pilot is part of GPO's efforts to increase public access to government information as well as the judiciary's continuing effort to expand public access to court records."
Source: Legal Dockets Online Blog

September 30, 2008

U.S. Courts RSS Feeds

AbsTracked reports that U.S. Courts website is offering RSS feeds:

September 23, 2008

Pretrial Discovery Affected By Federal Rule Amendment

From the U.S. Courts Newsroom:

A new Federal Rule of Evidence 502 was enacted on September 19, focusing on inadvertent disclosure of attorney-client privileged material. The new law limits the consequences of inadvertent disclosure, potentially lowering discovery costs and limiting the need for exhaustive "privilege review." Text.

September 18, 2008

WI Courts Introduce New, Interactive Small Claims Website

The Wisconsin court system has created a new, interactive small claims website for the public. This user-friendly program is intended to provide an inexpensive alternative for people in need of small claims assistance but who do not have an attorney.

The website guides users through a series of questions, and the Summons and Complaint form is automatically filled in based on the answers provided. The Web site operates much like the software used to complete a tax return. Blank versions of the statewide-standardized forms are also offered for people to fill in by hand. Additionally, the site offers many county-specific instructional guides to assist users.

Source: The Third Branch

September 17, 2008

State Board of Bar Governors Supports Petition for Citation of Unpublished Opinions

WisBar reports that The State Board of Bar Governors has voted to support Wisconsin Judicial Council Petition 08-02 to amend Wis.Stat. 809.23(3) to allow the citation of unpublished appellate opinions for persuasive value.

From WisBar.org:

Petition 08-02, asks the Supreme Court to expand the opportunities for citation by adopting the following:

(a) An unpublished opinion may not be cited in any court of this state as precedent or authority, except to support a claim of claim preclusion, issue preclusion, or the law of the case.

(b) In addition to the purposes specified in sub. (a), an unpublished opinion may be cited for its persuasive value. Because an unpublished opinion cited for its persuasive value is not precedent, it is not binding on any court of this state, and a court need not distinguish or otherwise discuss it.

September 12, 2008

U.S. Courts Announce Victim Notification System Enhancements

U.S. Courts has announced that starting this fall they will be launching a system which automatically sends crime victims and their families information from federal courts, helping ensure that crime victims are afforded the right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any relevant public court proceeding.

Victim notification data will be sent from a court's CM/ECF replication servers to the Department of Justice's Victim Notification System.

August 28, 2008

LegalDockets.com is Now Courtport.com

LegalDockets.com, a portal of court case information, is being restructured as Courtport.com. The new site will offer an improved user interface, added content, discussion forums, and more.courtport.gif
The main component of the site is still the portal - a collection of thousands of links focused on court case information, rules and forms, property, recordings, liens, criminal, business, and people records. The new site also features a blog and discussion forums.

Complementary access is available to academic users; others users can access the Courtport portal for a small annual subscription fee. Academics may follow these registration instructions:

1-Go to http://www.Courtport.com and click "Get Started" or "Join Now".

2-Enter your email address, three digit code displayed, and CHECK THE ACADEMIC SUBSCRIPTION BOX.

3-Check your inbox for an email from us. It will contain a verification link that you must click or copy and paste into your browser.

4-Agree to Terms and Conditions, enter your personal information, and click "Continue"

.

August 14, 2008

WI Supreme Court to Reconsider Citations to Unpublished Decisions

The Wisconsin Law Journal reports that "on Oct. 14, 2008, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will, for the fourth time, consider a proposed rule to allow citation to an unpublished decision for persuasive authority." Read more.

June 27, 2008

WI Court of Appeals Seek Mandatory Electronic Filing of Briefs & No-Merit Reports

Last week, the WI Court of Appeals filed a petition with the Supreme Court for rules changes seeking mandatory electronic filing of all appellate briefs and no-merit reports.

The proposed rule changes would also also permit, but do not require, the filing of an electronic copy of the appendix.

Source: Milwaukee Federalists

May 21, 2008

Review of Free Citators Available in AltLaw & PreCYdent

Both PreCYdent and AltLaw have come out with citators. Remember that these are both public-domain search engines offering cases and statutes for free on the Internet.

AltLaw
altlawcitator.png
When viewing a case in AltLaw, you'll notice that cases cited by your case appear on the left and cases which cite it are on the right. Both lists are in reverse chronological order. Very straight forward and easy to use. Nothing extra to click.

Note that there is no indication, however, of the treatment of the citing cases (i.e. the red and yellow indicators you'll find in Shepards or KeyCite).


PreCYdent

precydentcitator.png
I knew that PreCYdent had introduced a citator because I'd seen the press release, but it took me quite a while to find it. I finally located it in the bar over on the right with a bunch other buttons - I've circled them in the screen shot above.

There are two citator buttons (both of which are quite cryptic looking). The first is labeled Citations and it "shows citing and cited opinions." This is pretty much the same as the citator in AltLaw, although I'm not sure in what order the cases are appearing.

The second button is labeled Citator and it "shows judicial actions done by and on the present case." In other words: treatment. There are two columns: In-Citator shows all the actions taken by other cases regarding the current case. For example, the In-Citator will show if the current case has been overruled, reversed, or otherwise acted up, by a higher court. The Out-Citator column shows any actions the current case has taken regarding another case, for example, it the current case overrules, reverses, or takes another recorded action regarding a lower court opinion.

My opinion:
When I say citator, most people think of Shepards or KeyCite. Be warned: the citators in AltLaw and PreCYdent aren't in the same league as the two giants. But, hey, they're free and free is good - in some cases anyway.

Although AltLaw is easy to use, it lacks the added features of the others. Lack of treatment analysis makes it much less useful in oft-cited opinions since one would have to follow through on all of the citations individually.

PreCYdent, on the other hand, offers the treatment analysis, but is confusing to use.

And neither of the free citators offer the added value features that are available with Shepards and KeyCite, such as other citing sources (articles, legislation, regs), depth of treatment indicators, visual history, etc.

But most importantly, I think, is that the free guys just aren't proven yet. What is the depth of coverage? Will it pick up all the important cases? One must feel a fair degree of trust in a citator. Are you ready to rely on a free one in preparing your brief?

My advice? If it's important, spend the money on the big boys - at least at this point. But keep your eye on the little guys because they are making amazing progress towards providing open access for the law.

April 17, 2008

Publishers Sue Georgia State University for Copyright Infringement

Inside Higher Ed has a good analysis of the copyright infringement suit against Georgia State University. Three major academic presses, backed by the Association of American Publishers, allege "systematic, widespread, and unauthorized copying and distribution" at the university through the library electronic course reserve system, Blackboard, departmental Web sites and individual course syllabi posted online.

See also the NYT story and the press release from the AAP.

April 9, 2008

Governor Vetoes Bill to Expand Access to Juvenile Court Records

From Channel 3000:

[Gov. Jim Doyle] vetoed a bill that would expand access to juvenile court records for police, judges and social workers.

Current state law considers juvenile court records confidential. Law enforcement officers, judges and prosecutors must request permission from a judge to access them.

The bill would have deemed the records open to any law enforcement officer, judge or district attorney. It also would have opened the records to the state Department of Health and Family Services, county human services departments and licensed child welfare agencies.

Doyle said that the bill is too broad and makes the records available to too many people. He said that juvenile information is sensitive and should be closely guarded.

April 2, 2008

CM/ECF Pacer Access Available for 7th Circuit

CM/ECF Pacer Access is now available for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals according to Legal Dockets Online. Along with the D.C. and Veteran Claims courts, it joins the 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 10th circuit courts which already use the CM/ECF system.

What does this mean? CM/ECF makes available online court case docket sheets and filings, allows attorneys to file electronically, court clerks to enter docket entries, and enables electronic noticing.

From the US Courts Press Release:

Nationwide implementation of the federal judiciary's Case Management and Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system is nearly completed in the district and bankruptcy courts and is advancing in the appellate courts. CM/ECF not only replaces the courts' old electronic docketing and case management systems, but also provides courts the option to have case file documents in electronic format, and to accept filings over the Internet.

March 24, 2008

Western District of Wisconsin as New Patent Rocket Docket

According to Law.com:

Patent attorneys are hailing the Western District of Wisconsin as the nation's newest so-called rocket docket, characterized by speedy trials and a jury pool friendly to patent holders.

Patent case filings are climbing in the district based in Madison, including cases involving companies headquartered outside the area. Lawyers say they're attracted by the district's educated jury pool, which reflects the work force and populace connected to the University of Wisconsin and the thriving local high-technology sector.


Source: LexScripta

March 18, 2008

Children's Testimony May Be More Accurate Than Adult's

A recent study finds that children may offer more accurate court testimony than adults. The study was conducted by two Cornell University professors: Valerie Reyna, human development professor, and Chuck Brainerd, human development and law school professor.

Science Daily reports:

They say children depend more heavily on a part of the mind that records, "what actually happened," while adults depend more on another part of the mind that records, "the meaning of what happened." As a result, they say, adults are more susceptible to false memories, which can be extremely problematic in court cases.

Reyna and Brainerd's findings are summarized in a new book, The Science of False Memory, published by Oxford University Press.

Source: Boing Boing

WI Supreme Court One of the Most Influential

From the Wisconsin Court System Headlines:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is historically among the most influential state supreme courts in the United States, according to preliminary findings of a study published in December by the UC Davis (University of California, Davis) Law Review.

The study, which was highlighted in a March 11 column by New York Times legal affairs writer Adam Liptak, examined 66 years of decisions by state supreme courts nationwide.

Wisconsin ranked eighth in two categories of study - the number of high court decisions that have been "followed" at least once by an out-of-state court, and the number of state high court decisions that have been followed at least three times by out-of-state courts.

February 15, 2008

New Bills Would Open Deliberations of Supreme Court & Criminalize CCAP Discrimination

WisPolitics.com reports on two new pieces of legislation proposed by State Representative Marlin Schneider.

The first would open the deliberations of the State Supreme Court. From the article:

Schneider believes the public should also have the right to know about the private discussions of the Supreme Court. Just as the legislature must debate bills and issues in public, so too should the appellate courts. Hence, the lawmaker's.. bill opens up these deliberations to the public.

The second provides criminal penalties against those who CCAP to discriminate against employment and housing. This bill is in response to criticism of Schneider's earlier bill which would have limited CCAP access court and law enforcement personnel.

From the article:

The... bill disavows the restrictions made in his previous bill but directly addresses the problem of discrimination, particularly in employment and housing. Schneider's bill would make it a Class I felon for anyone to discriminate in employment or housing because of an arrest or conviction record on CCAP.

Thanks to Bev Butula for the tip.

February 13, 2008

Free Federal Case Law (F 2d & F 3d) Available on Justia

I was using Justia yesterday and noticed something I hadn't seen before - US Federal Court Appeals Opinions. It includes all US Federal appellate cases since 1950 browse-able by F 2d and F 3d citation. Wow - how long has that been there?

An email from Justia's Tim Stanley confirmed that the 1950+ Fed is indeed brand new. According to Tim:

Carl Malamud (of Media.org) and Ed Walters (of Fastcase.com) worked out the deal, and Public.Resource.org and the Creative Commons are setting up the Legal Commons where copies of all the free case law will be online in archive form for anyone to download and use.

There is a lot of fixing to do (multiple versions of the same case, getting in the internal page numbers) but this will get done :) And of course more free case law and codes are on the way.

This is outstanding! Kudos to all involved! What a valuable resource for the legal community and for the community as a whole. I'd seen Robert Ambrogi's announcement last week that this was coming and it appears that he was dead-on, as usual.
-----------
Updates: For more info, see the press release from PublicResource.Org.

And see also the post from Justia which says to "look for the cases to also appear on AltLaw and PreCYdent soon (if not already) and... many many other places"

How true - here is a beta search engine for the Federal Reporter.

February 11, 2008

Confidential Court Records Mistakenly Released by Milwaukee County

JS Online reports that:

Milwaukee County officials mistakenly released numerous confidential court records for a citizens group's Web site that detail payments for tests and other costs linked to mental competency, paternity and guardianship cases, officials acknowledged.

The records obtained by Citizens for Responsible Government Network were part of a county database of 188,000 purchasing invoices for 2006 and 2007. The group put the information on its Web site Tuesday morning. Late Friday, the group agreed to remove the confidential court records at the county's request.

The database is available on the Citizens for Responsible Government Network web site.

Editorial on Bills Seeking to Limit Access to CCAP

The Beloit Daily News weighs in on the two pending Wisconsin bills which would limit access to court records via CCAP.

AB 418 would restrict public access and allow only judges, court officials, police, lawyers and "accredited" journalists to view the information.

AB 754 would require that all records pertaining to a case be deleted if it is dismissed; if a defendant is found not guilty; or if a case is overturned on appeal.

Source: The Wheeler Report

February 4, 2008

Recycled PACER Documents Available at No Cost

Thanks to Legal Dockets Online for alerting me to the PACER recycling center, run by the folks at Public.Resource.org. Basically, this gathers "recycled" court filings donated by people who have paid to access them via PACER, then offers them free on the Internet.

According to the FAQ, here's how it works:

Just upload all your PACER Documents to our recycling bin. Click on the recycle bin and you'll be presented with a dialogue to choose files to upload. Then, just hit the "Start Upload" button and you'll hear the sounds of progress as your documents get reinjected into the public domain.

We'll take the documents, look at them, and then put them onto bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/pacer for future distribution. This is a manual process and you won't see your documents show up right away. But, over time, we hope to accumulate a significant database of PACER Documents.

While the ideal of making law freely available on the Internet is admirable, I'm not really convinced of the value of this system. So far, the total number of documents offered looks very slim - only time will tell if that number increases enough to be useful. However, I'm also not seeing that any dockets are available, which puts the documents that are there somewhat out of context.

More troublesome, however, is that unlike the fanciful site instructing you to upload your PACER docs, viewing the already uploaded documents is not nearly as pretty. Basically, you're presented with a list of folders in which you must browse your way through state, court, docket number, and a few other folders whose labels I couldn't decipher. No search engine to be had, as far as I could see. Nothing in the way of instructions either. Perhaps more sophistication is to come and it's simply too early to tell.

Frankly, in the realm of free PACER alternatives, you're much better off with Justia. Not only is there a lot more content, the search interface is excellent. And it's got dockets, RSS feeds, and more.

December 19, 2007

Wisconsin Sentencing Commission to be Eliminated

I ran across this announcement today on the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission Web site:


The Wisconsin Sentencing Commission and its statutory provisions under §973.30 were eliminated in the State's 2007-09 Biennium Budget. Neither the Commission nor any other agency will continue to collect and analyze sentencing guidelines worksheets. Sentencing courts are still required to consider the guidelines under §973.017 (2)(a), yet will not need to complete or submit guidelines worksheets.

The website and its contents will remain in their current location until February 29, 2008, at which point the site will be archived and its relevant content moved elsewhere on the web. A notification will be posted on this site to redirect visitors to the new location of these publications.

If you need to speak to someone regarding the Sentencing Commission, please contact Kristi Waits at the Office of Justice Assistance at (608) 261-7525 or kristi.waits@wisconsin.gov.

December 11, 2007

PACER US Party Case Index Includes All Federal District & Bankruptcy Courts

Legal Dockets Online Blog reports that the PACER U.S. Party Case Index now includes all Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts. It does not, however, include the following courts:

  • U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, SECOND CIRCUIT
  • U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, FIFTH CIRCUIT
  • U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, SEVENTH CIRCUIT
  • U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
  • U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, FEDERAL CIRCUIT

December 5, 2007

Blogs Cited in Change of Venue Arguement

In what is believed to be a first, a defense attorney in Tennessee is arguing for a change of venue citing blog posts along with newspaper and television reporting.

According to Law.com:

Attorney Philip Lomonaco of Knoxville, Tenn., called the Internet "the largest unregulated source for information" in the community, and said it had been used to "outrage and taint any jury pool" that could be seated to hear the case....

Source: Lex Scripta

December 4, 2007

Simplified Small Claims Forms

The Wisconsin State Court system has recently introduced new, more-user-friendly forms designed for people who are representing themselves in small claims actions. The forms are accompanied by plain-English instructions and are available both on the web and in hard copy.

See the Supreme Court press release for more information.

Source: Proof and Hearsay

November 26, 2007

Minnesota's Answer to CCAP - Statewide Electronic Case Records

Minnesota has recently introduced a statewide electronic case records service called MPA Remote, which is short for Minnesota Trial Court Public Access Remote view.

Similar to Wisconsin's CCAP system, MPA Remote displays trial court case information for public viewing, including register of actions, calendars, judgments, and orders and notices prepared by the court. Note that Internet Explorer is required to use this service - Firefox doesn't work.

See the National Center for State Courts for information about other states' public access to court records.

November 23, 2007

Public.Resource.Org & Fastcase Partner to Offer Free Archive of Federal Case Law

From the press release:

Public.Resource.Org and Fastcase, Inc. announced today that they will release a large and free archive of federal case law, including all Courts of Appeals decisions from 1950 to the present and all Supreme Court decisions since 1754. The archive will be public domain and usable by anyone for any purpose.

This is a big deal and has generated quite a buzz around the blogosphere. Check out the reaction from Elmer Masters (see also his post on Teknoids); Real Lawyers Have Blogs; and Jason the Content Librarian.

More from the press release:

This transaction represents a one-time purchase of a copy of data. This corpus will be integrated into the ongoing public services from organizations such as AltLaw and the Legal Information Institute, thus providing continuity of coverage into the future.

I was wondering if this would duplicate efforts with AltLaw (which already has federal case law from the last 10 to 15 years), but it seems not. Looks like this new partnership will provide the retrospective materials while Altlaw will continue to collect the newer cases.

November 19, 2007

La Crosse Tribune Looks at Plea Agreements

The La Crosse Tribune is running a series of articles on plea agreements - "how plea agreements are forged, why they have become a fixture in the courts and what they bring to our legal system."

According to The Tribune, only about one percent of felony cases in La Crosse County make it to trial compared to about three percent state-wide.

The paper also states, however, that despite a decreasing number of trials, La Crosse County has more than doubled its trial budgeting and spending in the past decade, mostly due to a dramatic increase in court-appointed attorney costs.

Articles in the series so far:

Source: The Wheeler Report

November 15, 2007

PACER Free at Some Libraries

In a two year pilot project, free public access to federal court records via PACER has been made available at 16 libraries in 14 states under a joint pilot project of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and the Government Printing Office.

According to a press release from the US Courts, the project is part of the judiciary's continuing effort to expand public access to court records by discovering if a segment of the public desires access to information contained in the PACER system but is unlikely to go to a courthouse or become a PACER user.

The federal depository libraries participating in the pilot are:

  • Alaska State Court Law Library, AK
  • 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Library, IL
  • San Bernadino County Law Library, CA
  • University of Michigan School of Law, MI
  • Sacramento County Public Law Library, CA
  • University of Tennessee College of Law, TN
  • Nova Southeastern University Law Library, FL
  • New Mexico Supreme Court Law Library, NM
  • Lee College, TX
  • Rutgers Law Library, NJ
  • State Library of Ohio, OH
  • Fordham Law School, NY
  • Wayne State University, MI
  • Rogers State University, OK
  • Portland Public Library, ME
  • Northern Kentucky University, KY

November 6, 2007

Cocaine Sentencing Guidelines Changed

From the Christian Science Monitor:

This week the US Sentencing Commission, with little fanfare, officially reduced its recommended sentences for crack-related offenses. The commission announced last spring that it intended to make the change, and Congress had until Nov. 1 to stop the move. It didn't, and the revised guidelines became effective Thursday.

Thanks to Bill Ebbott for the tip.

October 23, 2007

RSS Comes to CCAP

Update: 10/23/07
RSS feeds will be added to "Court Record Events" by the end of the day according to Jean Bousquet over at Wisconsin Courts. And based on this post, they are also working on adding search terms to the feed titles, as well as, beefing up the RSS info page.

A big thanks to Judge Richard Sankovitz for forwarding this post to Jean and to Jean and the CCAP team for so quickly addressing my concerns!

--------------------------
Tracking Wisconsin cases via CCAP just got a lot easier - RSS Feeds are now available on both the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) and the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Case Access (WSCCA) Web sites.

You'll notice that when you perform a search, a small orange RSS button appears at the top right on your search results page. This generates a RSS feed based on the keywords of your search. Subscribe to it with your RSS feed reader and you'll receive automatic notification of any new cases matching your keywords. See a sample search results page below:
ccap.png


This is a wonderful improvement to CCAP. The ability to track cases by party name (think clients/potential clients/competition), attorney, topic (class code), etc. is a powerful time saving device for legal practitioners, journalists, and other interested parties.

I do have one suggestion for improvement. In my RSS reader (I use Bloglines), my "Harley Davidson" feed above comes up with the generic title, Wisconsin Circuit Court Access. That's fine if I'm only monitoring one feed, but if I have multiple feeds, there is no way to tell them apart unless I change the feed title myself. It would be nice if the search terms came up in the feed title.

Proof and Hearsay also notes that they'd like to see a RSS feed on the "Court Record Events" page to track the docket for a specific case. I agree that this would also be a very nice addition.

There is a page on the Wisconsin Courts pages that explains what RSS is, but it's all quite generic. It would be nice if explained more specifically about the feeds generated by CCAP.

But all in all, this is an awesome service! A great addition to an already wonderful product.

Source: Proof and Hearsay

October 18, 2007

WI Courts RSS Feeds

The Wisconsin Court system has developed RSS feeds for the following:

  • News releases
  • Supreme Court opinions and dispositional orders
  • Supreme Court rules
  • Supreme Court oral arguments
  • Supreme Court dispositional orders
  • Court of Appeals opinions
  • Court of Appeals certifications

October 17, 2007

Article Explores History, Content of CCAP in Comparison to Other States

Davis & Kuelthau librarian, Bev Butula has written a very useful article in this month's Wisconsin Lawyer entitled, Online Access to Circuit Court Dockets. The article explores Wisconsin's online docket database (CCAP) and looks at the status of online access in some other states.

From the conclusion:

Searching circuit court dockets in Wisconsin is accomplished via CCAP. Information seekers often take this service for granted. Many states have yet to develop an online database. Some only make particular counties available. Online availability is progressing at different speeds throughout the United States and currently is available on a limited basis. To effectively conduct a non-Wisconsin docket search, the researcher should start with the National Center for State Courts, the Virtual Chase, or LLRX, or call the court's clerk to inquire if an online database is available.

I would also recommend subscribing to Legal Dockets Online Blog for keeping tabs on court docket info.

October 16, 2007

Where are Wisconsin's Tech-Savvy Juries?

Proof and Hearsay reports on where to find Wisconsin's tech-savvy juries.

According to the statistics for twenty-nine counties' jurors, just over 17 percent of prospective jurors surveyed in 2006 filed their jury questionnaire responses online at the court's web site.

A county break down shows that the highest percentages came from:

  • Eau Claire County - 40 percent
  • Suburban Waukesha County - 32.8 percent
  • Milwaukee County - 21.4 percent

Lowest percentage of online responses:

  • Langlade County - 0.6 percent (only 7 of 1,100 surveyed)

October 11, 2007

The CCAP Battle

Assembly Bill 418 which would stop ordinary citizens from viewing Wisconsin court records online via CCAP has aroused much debate.

JSOnline's Proof and Hearsay summarizes:

It's a footnote here that the bill to restrict access to Wisconsin's online court records database is not likely to be seriously considered this Legislative term, but the fact the long-debated matter has risen to the level of Legislative debate has drawn a sizable amount of media attention. It's an interesting debate: the records are going to be open, but should they be convenient? State AG J.B. Van Hollen says keep 'em online, and newspapers and judges are pushing for openness while a handful of Milwaukee's legislators say making prosecutions so immutably public adds to the burdens faced by the people already having a hard time finding work.

Pay Fees Online in CCAP

Proof and Hearsay reports that the option to "Pay Fees Online" has quietly been added to CCAP. At this point, however, it is only enabled for Kenosha County.

Here's the message that you see when you click on the "Pay Fees Online" button:

Welcome to the Wisconsin Court System's Circuit Court Online Payment system. This Web site allows payment of circuit court fees and/or fines online. A 2.35% convenience fee for MasterCard and a $1.50 flat fee for electronic check will be charged by US Bank to process payments.

The online payment feature is implemented only in Kenosha County with US Bank. After a two month evaluation period and approval by US Bank, this service will be expanded to additional counties.

CA Supreme Court Sued for Refusal to Consider Unpublished Opinions

A 19-year-old restaurant worker is suing the California Supreme Court to reverse its practice of largely ignoring unpublished court opinions, according to the McClatchy Washington Bureau.

Source: Library Stuff

September 19, 2007

How PACER Has Changed the Business of the Courts

US Courts has an interesting article on how PACER has altered the business of the courts. Here's a sampling from the article:

  • "It's definitely changed the way our office does business, and I think it's been a change for the better," said Monica Menier, clerk of the bankruptcy court in the Middle District of Louisiana.

    "Back in the paper world, we constantly had law firm runners who came to the clerk's office to make copies of case files. They'd have to drive to the courthouse, find a parking place, feed the meter, and pay 50 cents per copy. Helping them consumed a lot of staff time," she said. "Those days are gone."

  • Bankruptcy Judge J. Rich Leonard in the Eastern District of North Carolina voiced one concern about the decrease in courthouse traffic. "I'm worried about what can be the complete absence of interaction between lawyers and their staffs and the court staff," he said.

    "The level of camaraderie and shared professionalism incident to the delivery of paper files has been affected. Those sort of contacts are gone. The only person in our clerk's staff that many lawyers who practice before me know is our courtroom deputy, whom they see in court," Leonard said. "Things are more formalized now."

  • Judge Leonard said PACER's growth has resulted in one change in his judicial behavior: He's more likely to insist on quicker responses from lawyers because "submitting a reply brief in two days is much easier than it was in a paper world."

Source: Legal Dockets Online

Transcripts to be Made Available on PACER

Yesterday, the Judicial Conference of the United States voted to make transcripts of federal district and bankruptcy court proceedings available online through PACER.

According to the press release:

Under the new policy, transcripts created by court reporters or transcribers will be available for inspection and copying in a clerk of court's office and for download from PACER 90 days after they are delivered to the clerk. Individuals will be able to view, download, or print a copy of a transcript from PACER for eight cents per page.

During the initial 90-day period, transcripts will be available at the clerk's office for inspection only, or may be purchased from the court reporter or transcriber.

Source: Legal Dockets Online

September 13, 2007

US Courts Seeking Comment on Possible Web Restriction of Plea Agreements

From a US Courts news release:

The federal Judiciary is seeking comment on the privacy and security implications related to public Internet access to certain documents in criminal case files...

The committee is interested in comments on a proposal to restrict public Internet access to plea agreements in criminal cases, which may contain information identifying defendants who are cooperating with law enforcement investigations.

See the full news release for information on how to submit comments.

September 6, 2007

Finding Juror Blog Posts

Deliberations has an interesting post on jurors who blog. The part that caught my librarian's eye was the collection of tips on setting up searches to find juror blog posts.

Summarized, they are:

  • Learn about RSS and get yourself a feed reader
  • Search for your case name plus "jury duty" and your city
  • Search both blogs and news stories
  • Don't forget about comments in blogs
  • Let others know you're looking --- especially your librarian! (I added that last part!)

Justia Expands Federal District Court Filings DB - Added Years & PDF Filings Now Available

More goodies from Justia - they expanded their Federal District Court Filings database. They've gone back a few more years and now cover from 2004 to the present. And now, in addition to just seeing information about the case, for some cases you can actually view the opinions, orders, and complete filings. This is awesome!

Cases for which opinions and orders and available have a gavel icon. Cases for with complete filings are noted with a star icon. I suspect that the latter must be very new since I've not seen it mentioned anywhere yet.

To see a case with opinions and orders, run a search and select the Only Case Filings with Downloadable Opinions or Orders button. There doesn't seem to be a button yet for complete filings, but I did happen to find some - run a search for Tivo - the two most recent cases have stars.

Justia is pulling the content from PACER. Although the opinions and orders are available on PACER at no charge, you need an account to access them. With Justia, no account is needed. And for the cases with complete filings, you're getting a real bargain since normally you'd have to pay for those on PACER. Plus Justia offers more search options than PACER. And, of course, every search is RSS subscribe-able in Justia.

Mary Minow of LawLibrary Blog posted an interview with Nick Moline, programmer at Justia a few weeks ago. Although the database currently goes back to 2004, he said that Justia has plans to add more.

September 5, 2007

WisconsinEye Now Broadcasting Supreme Court Oral Arguements

WisconsinEye announced yesterday that it will begin gavel-to-gavel broadcast coverage of oral arguments in the State Supreme Court beginning with today's with three scheduled cases.

WisconsinEye President & CEO Chris Long said the network plans to cover all oral arguments on the Court's 2007-2008 calendar either live or tape-delayed on Charter Channel 200 and Time Warner Channel 163. All hearing coverage will also be broadcast and permanently archived at WisconsinEye.

Source: WisPolitics.com

August 22, 2007

Public.Resource.Org Aims to Offer All Federal & State Cases & Codes Free Online

The New York Times reports on the project of "Internet gadfly" Carl Malamud, founder of Public.Resource.Org, to make more than 10 million pages of case law available free online.

According to the ReadMe file on Public.Resource.Org,

The short-term goal of the project is the creation of an unencumbered full-text repository of the Federal Reporter, the Federal Supplement, and the Federal Appendix. The medium-term goal is the creation of an unencumbered full-text repository of all state and federal cases and codes.

The entire Federal Reporter, Supplement and Appendix is a short-term goal? All federal and state cases and codes are medium-term? My goodness, what would be considered long-term?

In the ReadMe file dated Friday, August 17th, Malamud reports that he hopes to have the Federal Reporter, first series (300 volumes) scanned within the next few months. So far, he's got 1000 pages of court decisions from the 1880s (scanned from a West ultrafiche).

Malamud has written a letter to Thomson West stating his intent to create "an unencumbered public repository of all federal and state case law and codes. This goal is not meant to compete with commercial vendors such as yourself, who perform a worthy service for the large law firms and other well-funded institutions who practice the business of law." In the letter, Malamud asks Thomson to clarify their copyright claims on the reports; Thomson has yet to reply.

Thanks to my colleague, Bill Ebbott, for the tip.

August 7, 2007

ABA & Wisconsin Legislature Considering Sealing Some Criminal Records

JS Online reports that the ABA is considering a resolution urging local, state and federal governments to seal the records of criminal cases in which convictions were not obtained. "It also calls for sealing the records of misdemeanor and felony convictions after a specified period of 'law-abiding conduct.' Only police and prosecutors would have access to the sealed files." Currently, such are records are available in Wisconsin via CCAP.

Wisconsin ABA delegate, Attorney Richard Podell, "said the measure 'has a good chance' of passing and that if it does, ABA members would appeal to legislators in every state to pass matching laws."

JS Online also reports that "Wisconsin legislators, citing the same concerns, introduced Assembly Bill 418 in late June. It would restrict access to online court records to court officials, law enforcement personnel, attorneys and accredited journalists."

July 20, 2007

Bypassing Disclaimer Screen in CCAP

Proof and Hearsay, the blog from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff on legal issues, offers another handy CCAP search tip: how to look at individual case records without having to click on the disclaimer screen for every new case that comes up.

Installing a Firefox script using Greasemonkey is required. That may sound scary, but step by step instructions are provided.

July 18, 2007

Wigs Off in Britain

From Reuters:

Britain's lawyers and judges are to break with centuries-old tradition and cease wearing white horse-hair wigs in non-criminal cases, the head of the country's judiciary announced on Thursday.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, said new dress rules would mean the wigs, which British legal professionals have worn since the 17th century, would not be needed in civil or family court cases.

June 28, 2007

Audio from Selected Courts to be Available on PACER this Summer

"Continuing its efforts to enhance the transparency of courtroom proceedings, the federal Judiciary is about to launch a pilot project to make digital audio recordings publicly available online," reports The Third Branch.

Five pilot project courts will begin loading the audio files into their CM/ECF systems later this summer where they will be available via PACER. During the six-to-12-month pilot project, access to the audio files will cost 16 cents--eight cents for accessing the docket sheet and another eight cents for selecting the audio file.

The five pilot project courts are:

  • U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maine
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina

Source: Legal Dockets Online Blog

June 21, 2007

AudioCaseFiles Free This Summer

To encourage new users, AudioCaseFiles, a web site of downloadable MP3 files of court opinions, is available at no charge this summer.

This service, which is aimed at law students, provides recordings of most of the opinions that appear in many law school first year course casebooks. Looks like there are a couple hundred so far, but the company has plans to add lots more, including cases from 2L and 3L casebooks.

Downloading the cases to your iPod is very easy and the voice recording the case is pleasant - not a computer generated voice. I did a blog search for AudioCaseFiles to see what students thought about it. There wasn't too much talk about it, but all reactions were positive. Most liked to be able to exercise or do other things while listening.

May 31, 2007

Gap in WI Public Domain Citation Numbers

A few weeks ago, our Evening and Weekend Reference Librarian, Eric Taylor, noticed a large gap in the public domain citation numbers for the 2007 Wisconsin Court of Appeals opinions. Upon contacting the court, we received the following memorandum from Christopher Paulsen, Chief Deputy Clerk:

Please be advised that the Public Domain Citation (PDC) numbers 2007 WI App 51 though 109 were erroneously assigned to unpublished cases. Upon discovery of the error, numbers 51 though 109 were removed from the court's database system and PDC numbers for published cases were resumed sequentially beginning with 2007 WI App 110.

May 22, 2007

Seventh Circuit Starts a Wiki

Law.com reports that the 7th Circuit has recently created a wiki. According to Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, who spearheaded the project, "the goal is to concentrate on procedure (in both the court of appeals and the district courts) but not to cover substance."

To contribute to the wiki, see the Registration page.

Source: Slaw

April 2, 2007

How Trustworthy are State-level Primary Legal Resources on the Web? Not Very, Says AALL Report

AALL has conducted a State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources. The report presents the results of a survey of primary online legal resources and whether these resources are official and capable of being authenticated. In short, "How trustworthy are state-level primary legal resources on the Web?"

The answer (from the executive summary):

A significant number of the state online legal resources are official but none are authenticated or afford ready authentication by standard methods. State online primary legal resources are therefore not sufficiently trustworthy. Citizens and law researchers may reasonably doubt their authority and should approach such resources critically.

According to AALL President, Sally Holterhoff, the report is the focus of a National Summit on Authentication of Digital Information, which AALL will hold April 20-21 in Chicago. The 50 delegates to the summit are judges, state government officials, attorneys, and leaders of AALL and of other organizations, such as the American Bar Association. All of them were invited to participate because of their interest in exploring legal and technological solutions to the issues raised in the report.

Guide to Filing a Petition for Review in the WI Supreme Court

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has created a handy guide to Filing a Petition for Review : A Guide to Seeking Review in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The nine page document is dated October 2006.

Abstract:

This is a simplified guide to the Wisconsin Rules of Appellate Procedure with respect to filing petitions for review and is intended primarily for people who are not lawyers and lawyers with limited appellate experience. This handbook is not intended to replace the Rules of Appellate Procedure and should not be cited as legal authority. You must rely on the rules and case law as legal authority. The Rules of Appellate Procedure are contained in Chapter 809 of the Wisconsin Statutes, which is available at www.legis.state.wi.us/statutes/Stat0809.pdf. You may also want to consult the court's Internal Operating Procedures (IOPs), which are published periodically and are available at www.wicourts.gov/sc/IOPSC.pdf. This handbook reflects
the rules and case law as they exist on January 1, 2006. The rules and case law are always subject to change, and should be consulted for changes. This handbook is available in an alternative format upon request.

Thanks to my colleagues, Bill Ebbott and Margaret Booth for the tip.

March 29, 2007

Justice Breyer on NPR's "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me"

Check out Yahoo News for more on Justice Breyer's entertaining interview on National Public Radio's "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me."

Being the funniest Supreme Court justice, he said, "is like being one of the shortest tall people."

Better yet, listen to the Show.

Source: Findlaw's Practice Paper

March 21, 2007

Judges Not Reading Law Reviews Anymore

An article in Monday's New York Times opens with the provocative quote:


"I haven't opened up a law review in years," said Chief Judge Dennis G. Jacobs of the federal appeals court in New York. "No one speaks of them. No one relies on them."

Judge Jacobs was explaining to a gathering of law professors that their scholarship no longer had any impact on the courts. Why? According to the article:

Articles in law reviews have certainly become more obscure in recent decades. Many law professors seem to think they are under no obligation to say anything useful or to say anything well.

"But the big question is do the judges read lawprof blogs?" wonders UW Law Prof Ann Althouse. She her post for more.

March 19, 2007

Federal Courts to Test Offering Audio Proceedings Online

The Associated Press reports Courts To Test Offering Trial Tapes Online.


The federal judiciary panel has approved a pilot program to make audio recordings of court proceedings available online for free. Although a court's participation in the program is voluntary, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan, the executive committee chairman of the policy-making Judicial Conference, said he expects the system ultimately will be widely used.....

At present, recording devices and cameras are prohibited in all federal courtrooms... The pilot program, set to launch in the next few months, will put those recordings on the court's electronic records database for download.

See the Federal Judiciary News Release.

Thanks to Bill Ebbott for the tip.

March 9, 2007

Charging for CCAP?

JS Online reports that, according to a provision in the budget bill,

...The director of state courts would be given authority to "establish and charge fees for use of the circuit court automated information systems created under this section." Left unstated are who would be charged, how much they would be charged and how often...

[Deb Brescoll, the state courts' budget and policy analyst,] said lawyers in only a couple of counties can file court documents with the courts electronically. Her office hopes to charge a fee for cyber court filings to make this option available statewide someday.

February 13, 2007

Justia Launches Free Federal District Court Filings Database Search

Justia has launched a database of recently filed Federal District Court civil cases. You can browse by browse by state and/or type of lawsuit or view all recent cases. Search by party name, jurisdiction, type of lawsuit, and within a given date range.

BeSpacific reports that according to Justia's Tim Stanley, there are currently "over 300,000 case titles since January 1, 2006, and they are updating [the database] daily."

Search results contain the party names, jurisdiction, date, and docket number. There is a link to the docket via paid PACER subscription. Links to blog, news and web searches for each party name are also available.

RSS feeds are also available for search results. This is very cool. If I want to monitor all cases with party name "Harley Davidson", I can subscribe to that feed. If I want to monitor all Wisconsin cases on IP law, I can subscribe to that feed. That's just the tip of the iceberg for the searches you can set up.

Although the content doesn't appear to have anything over PACER, the advanced search capability and powerful alerting capability make Justia a very valuable resource.

February 7, 2007

Courts Not Using CM/ECF for Electronic Filing and Access to Court Documents

Paul Bush of Legal Dockets Online has compiled a list of the courts not using CM/ECF. CM/ECF allows courts to accept filings and provide access to filed documents over the Internet via PACER.

He writes:

Since CM/ECF systems have been successfully implemented throughout the U.S., some researchers incorrectly assume that all case dockets and filings can be located and downloaded using CM/ECF. It's important to recognize that certain court case information is not presently contained within a CM/ECF database.

Note that the Wisconsin Western District Court is one of the courts listed. I have, however, heard that Western District will connect to the CM/ECF later this year. It will be the last federal district court in the US to do so.

January 31, 2007

Supreme Court Documentary Begins Tonight on PBS

Tune in to PBS tonight for the beginning of a four-part documentary on the Supreme Court. "It is a must-see series that takes the viewer back to the pitifully weak early days of the Court, then all the way forward to its current incarnation as a center-of-the-universe powerhouse," writes Law.com. See the full article for more about the program.

Milwaukee Magazine on Judicial Conflicts of Interest

On Their Honor is the title of a Milwaukee Magazine article about judicial conflicts of interest in Milwaukee County.

From the article:


The [Wisconsin Supreme Court] rule requires that judges disqualify themselves from any case when "a judge has a significant financial or personal interest in the outcome of the matter." If, however, the financial conflict is de minimis - meaning so insignificant it doesn't raise "reasonable question as to the judge's impartiality" - no disqualification is required. But it's up to the judges themselves to decide that question...

Judges rarely remove themselves from cases in which they have an interest - in Milwaukee County, it happened only 12 times in all of 2005 and 25 times in 2003. Meanwhile, the problem of financial conflicts is growing. The number of cases in Milwaukee in which judges had a financial conflict grew from 42 cases in 2004 to 71 in 2005 and 89 for the first eight months of 2006. At that pace, there would be 133 cases with a conflict in 2006.

Source: beSpacific

January 30, 2007

Citing Wikipedia in Judicial Decisions

Monday's New York Times has a very interesting article on courts use of Wikipedia.

More than 100 judicial rulings have relied on Wikipedia, beginning in 2004, including 13 from circuit courts of appeal, one step below the Supreme Court. (The Supreme Court thus far has never cited Wikipedia.)...

[According to] Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University Law School... : "The most critical fact is public acceptance, including the litigants," he said. "A judge should not use Wikipedia when the public is not prepared to accept it as authority."

For now, Professor Gillers said, Wikipedia is best used for "soft facts" that are not central to the reasoning of a decision. All of which leads to the question, if a fact isn't central to a judge's ruling, why include it?

"Because you want your opinion to be readable," said Professor Gillers. "You want to apply context. Judges will try to set the stage. There are background facts. You don't have to include them. They are not determinitive. But they help the reader appreciate the context."

Source: TVC Alert

January 26, 2007

Adoption Information Mistakenly Available on CCAP

When looking for his own parking citation in CCAP, a UW-Whitewater faculty member was surprised to find a piece of his son's confidential adoption record, reports JS Online. [CCAP, officially known as the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) database, contains the records of Wisconsin county courts.]

"I was stunned," said [David] Munro, who teaches issues related to computer security and ethics... "I knew some sealed records, including ours, had been partially revealed. I had no idea what the scope was."

After a little research on the database, Munro realized that the information was just enough for people to discover they had been adopted or to possibly lead to the identification of birth parents.

State officials confirmed that they were unaware of the problem until Munro contacted them late last year. Pieces of adoption records involving about 200 families were publicly exposed on the state system for about four months, authorities said...

Robert Knoll, Register in Probate for Milwaukee County, said the records were a microfilm index of old adoption records uploaded into the CCAP system for storage and should have been coded differently. None of the families whose adoption records were partially exposed was contacted because CCAP fixed the problem and because only the index information was revealed, he said.

Counties are responsible for coding cases properly so the CCAP system can decipher whether the cases should be displayed on public access or not, Bousquet said. There is no way of knowing how many "hits" were made on the adoption index records during the time they were exposed, she added.

January 23, 2007

WI Criminal Law Decisions Online

From the Web site:

Criminal Law Decisions Online (CLDO) covers all criminal law decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court and Wisconsin Supreme Court, and published cases of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, from July 1, 1977, through December 15, 2006.

This system replicates, in an online format, the Master Compilation of Criminal Law Decisions documents previously published by the Department of Justice, and it retains the table of contents and numerical digesting system used in print versions of the Master Compilation.

Decisions of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals which were published after the July 1, 2001 term are also linked to the court's public website.

Apparently, when CLDO first started out it wasn't available to the public, but it is now. Thanks to Bill Ebbott for the tip.

Accessing PACER At No Cost

According to a government documents listserv email from Judith C. Russell, Superintendent of Documents and Managing Director at the U.S. Government Printing Office, the Judiciary is considering a one year pilot project to assess the effect of offering free public access to PACER through the Federal Depository Library Program. (What's PACER?)

Currently, PACER is available at no cost in Federal courthouses by visiting the office of the clerk of courts. But note that printing costs may be high. For example, the cost for printing in the Western District of WI Clerk of Courts office is 50 cents/page. However, anyone can request their own PACER account and the service is "free" in that no billing is done until $10.00 in charges are generated.

According to Marc Weinberger of the U.S. Courts Library, Western District of WI, individual PACER account applications can be obtained a couple of ways: 1) from the PACER Service Center [800-676-6856]; 2) via the website http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/ There is an instant registration option (with a valid email address and credit card number) or a regular account with billing can be set up and it takes about a week to get a confirmation.

January 22, 2007

Judicial Reports - Consumer Reports for NY Judges

Law.com's Legal Technology section has a useful article by Robert Ambrogi entitled, Superior Legal Web Sites to Watch. There are a number of good sites listed, but one that struck me was Judicial Reports.

Ambrogi writes:

What Consumer Reports does for appliances and Zagat does for restaurants, a new Web site aims to do for judges. Called Judicial Reports, the site offers in-depth profiles of New York state's 328 Supreme Court judges. Eventually, it will add New York's federal judges and, if there is demand, judges in other states.

Each profile draws on information available in public records together with independent research and analysis. Thus, a profile includes a judge's biography and vital statistics, but also the judge's reversal record, judicial conduct report and financial and campaign-finance disclosures. Included in a judge's biographical profile are comments from lawyers who have direct experience appearing before the judge.

January 16, 2007

WI Ct of App Rules That PDF No Substitute For Database Access Under Open Access Law

TVC Alert reports:

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals last week ruled that in accordance with the state's open access law, PDF copies of information in a database do not substitute for access to the database. Therefore, the municipalities violated public records law when they denied plaintiff access to the information in the format it which it was available to the municipalities.

More from Electronic Discovery Law, a blog from K&L Gates:

In this open records case, WIREdata, Inc. had filed open records requests with three municipalities seeking property assessment records in the format created and maintained by the municipalities' independent contractor assessors in a computer database.

The court held that the open records law allowed WIREdata the opportunity to access that database in order to examine and copy the property assessment records, and that the municipalities committed open records law violations when they denied WIREdata such access and instead provided it with a "PDF," or portable document file.

Case: WIREdata, Inc. v. Village of Sussex (Wis. Ct. App. Jan. 3, 2007)

December 13, 2006

New Federal Rule Re: Citing Unpublished Opinions

As of January 1st, the following important change to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure is scheduled to go into effect.

Rule 32.1. Citing Judicial Dispositions (a) Citation Permitted. A court may not prohibit or restrict the citation of federal judicial opinions, orders, judgments, or other written dispositions that have been: (i) designated as "unpublished," "not for publication," "non-precedential," "not precedent," or the like; and (ii) issued on or after January 1, 2007.

See Proposed Amendments to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure from the US Courts web site.

Source: Moritz Legal Information Blog

November 10, 2006

It's OK to Use Hidden Metadata Says ABA Ethics Opinion

According to a recent press release form the ABA:

Lawyers who receive electronic documents are free to look for and use information hidden in metadata - information embedded in electronically produced documents - even if the documents were provided by an opposing lawyer, according to a new ethics opinion from the American Bar Association.

It goes on to explain what such metadata might reveal:

The ABA committee noted metadata is ubiquitous in electronic documents, and includes such information as the last date and time that a document was saved and by whom, data on when it was accessed, the name of the owner of the computer that created the document and the date and time it was created, and a record of any changes made to the document or comments written into it.

"Other types of metadata may or may not be as well known and easily understandable ... Moreover, more thorough or extraordinary investigative measures sometimes might permit the retrieval of embedded information that the provider ... either did not know existed, or thought was deleted," said the opinion. And while the opinion said most metadata "probably is of no import," it added that the metadata can sometimes reveal such critical information as "who knew what when," or negotiating strategy and positions. (emphasis added)

For tips on purging metadata before sharing documents, see Metadata: What You Can't See Can Hurt You by Sharon Nelson and John Simek. Law Practice 32(2):28-29 (March 2006)

Source: beSpacific

October 11, 2006

Locating Attorneys, Law Firms, Corporate Counsel & Judges

My colleague, Jenny Zook, has created a guide on Locating Attorneys, Law Firms, Corporate Counsel & Judges for our UW Law School newsletter. She's included some useful tips, although, please note that some of the resources mentioned may only be available by subscription or in a library.

October 4, 2006

New PACER Functionality

From a PACER press release:
(What is PACER?)


The latest versions of CM/ECF include a number of notable changes that were requested by PACER customers. PACER customers can now choose whether the client code field should be mandatory when logging into CM/ECF. In addition, formatting requirements of the client code can be set. The new preference settings allow customers to turn off viewing of transaction receipts if desired. To implement these new features, login to the Account Information section of this website, then select "Set PACER Preferences."

A new "Court Information" utility is available in CM/ECF. The option provides general court information such as hours of operation, court location and phone number, as well as filing information such as the maximum size of PDF files, the court's version of CM/ECF, case flag definitions and more. "Court Information" can be accessed in most courts at the bottom left hand corner before logging into the system. While logged into PACER, click on the "Utilities" menu option to get to "Court Information."

Only district version 3.0 and bankruptcy version 3.1 and later include the enhancements listed above. Customers may set their preferences now, but they will not appear in a court until the court installs the new versions of CM/ECF. For a complete listing of changes, review the CM/ECF Release Notes.


Source: Legal Dockets Online Blog

October 2, 2006

Executive Summaries Added to CCAP

A press release from the Wisconsin Courts outlines some of the recent changes to the CCAP case management system. The changes are in response to criticism that the information contained on CCAP could be misinterpreted.

The changes include:

  • Executive summaries that help viewers to interpret case information. (Available for criminal, traffic, forfeiture or civil cases filed with a restraining order.)
  • A glossary of legal terms
  • A change in the length of time that certain records remain accessible on the site. (Will follow the minimum records retention rule developed by the Supreme Court)

See also the article in today's Badger Herald

September 12, 2006

NLJ Article on Judges Citing Blogs

There is an interesting article in the National Law Journal about judges citing to blogs. The article notes that since 2004, judges have cited blogs 32 times in 27 different cases, including Justice John Paul Stevens' dissent in U.S. v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005).

From the article:

"I'm not sure I have any cosmic theories about why it's happening," [9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diarmuid] O'Scannlain said in an interview from his Portland, Ore., chambers.

"I am sure most judges, when they see carefully articulated logic in whatever form, in a law review or published lecture or electronic form, are inclined to evaluate it and if relevant cite it," he said. He predicted that the practice would continue to grow.

July 27, 2006

Dane Co. Legal Assistance Programs

The August edition of the DCLRC Docket is now available from the Dane County Legal Resource Center. It features a directory of free legal assistance programs located in the Dane Co. courthouse (215 South Hamilton Street).

  • Restraining Order Clinic Mondays 9-Noon, Room 1001 (Next to Probate) The restraining order clinic is a University of Wisconsin Law School program that can help organize information and complete and review forms and procedures for restraining orders. Law School students provide help, supervised by a clinical law professor. The students will supply no legal advice or advocacy.
  • Family Law Assistance Center Wednesdays 11:30-1:30, Room L1000 (Assembly Room) Offers assistance with forms and procedures related to family court; referrals to community resources; no legal advice. Staffed by volunteer attorneys, paralegals and law students; Spanish-speaking volunteers are available the first and third Wednesdays. Schedule available on Dane County Bar Association Web site: http://www.dcba.net/programs/FamilyAssistSchedule.html.
  • Family Court Assistance Project Tuesdays, Thursdays 9-Noon; Wednesdays 11-2, Room L1000 FCAP is a University of Wisconsin Law School program that can help organize information, complete and review forms, and will offer numerous workshops on family court-related issues, including Temporary Restraining Orders. Staffed by Law School students, supervised by a clinical law professor. The students will supply no legal advice or advocacy. Contact FCAP at (608) 262-2301.
  • Small Claims Assistance Program Tuesdays 9-11 a.m., Room L1000 (Assembly Room) Program offers assistance with forms and procedures related to small claims court; referrals to community resources; no legal advice. Staffed by volunteer attorneys, paralegals, and law students.

July 26, 2006

Article: Viewing Law Blogs as a Vast Amicus Brief

In his Law.com article entitled Viewing Law Blogs as a Vast Amicus Brief, Howard Bashman consideres "what should judges do if, while visiting the legal blogosphere, they encounter discussions about how pending cases ought to be decided?

He writes, "We expect appellate courts to conduct their own legal research, beyond that presented by the parties, with the goal of reaching the most lawful and just outcomes possible. When the legal blogosphere offers assistance in the form of insightful commentary about pending cases from law professors and lawyers with particular expertise in the subject matter under consideration, a judge's consultation of those blog posts is, in my view, just another form of permissible legal research."

Source: Inside Opinions: Legal Blogs

July 18, 2006

Gen X Vs. Gen Y Jurors

The June issue of Law Practice has an interesting article about the difference between Gen X and Gen Y jurors. In The Newer Generations in the Jury Box: Who Will Favor Your Cause? the author contends that:

Generation X jurors tend to:


  • Want more data and the source behind it but presented in a concise, technological (screen-view) way
  • Focus on the pragmatic and how a case relates to their own lives
  • Be fairly entrepreneurial and impressed with parties who take ethical risks in business
  • Hearken back to many traditional values that we typically correlate with older jurors, in particular with a focus on "personal responsibility" and "self-reliance"
  • Want the "bottom line" on conclusions the experts draw

Generation Y jurors tend to:

  • Want even more presented technologically than do the technologically savvy Generation X jurors
  • Be the best-educated generation of all time, with an ability to think more analytically about case facts as a result
  • Be more interested in teamwork and "getting along" in the deliberation room
  • Be more interested in 9-to-5 jobs with a reliable employer, giving them respect for parties who follow through on their commitments
  • Feel less suspicious than other generations do toward the government, indicating an opportunity to impress them with a party's ability or inability to meet governmental or industry standards

As a Gen Xer, I can say that these observations are pretty much right on - except for being impressed with parties who take ethical risks in business. Maybe it would depend on the particulars, but in general, I don't think that messing around with ethics is a good thing.

I can absolutely identify with the "personal responsibility" and "self-reliance" values. Probably comes from being a latch-key kid. I would also want to see hard data along with the source behind it, particularly if it is presented in a concise, technological way. And as a Gen Xer, I can definitely appreciate getting the "bottom line."

July 5, 2006

New Edition of Dane County Family Court Resource Booklet

From the July DCRLC Newsletter:

Through a cooperative effort with the Family Court Counseling Service (FCCS) and other family court offices, a new edition of the Dane County Family Court Resource Booklet is now available. You may purchase hard copies of the booklet for $3.00 by contacting DCLRC or FCCS (266-4607) or view the booklet online.

July 3, 2006

CCAP Can't Be Used as Proof of Habitual Criminal Status

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on Friday that "prosecutors shouldn't use the state's online criminal record system to prove whether a defendant is a repeat offender."

According to an AP article (appearing in StarTribune.com), "the decision reversed a ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeals, which had rejected Jamale Bonds' argument the state's Consolidated Court Automation Programs, or CCAP, were too unreliable to prove he was a habitual criminal."

Source: Legal Dockets Online

June 8, 2006

Webcasting from the Courtroom

Court Webcasting is a new project weblog from WV Supreme Court Clerk, Rory Perry. For a list of courts who webcast their proceedings, see the list on the right hand side of the page. (Note that the link to the WI Supreme Ct is broken. Here's the right one.)

Why should legal researchers watch these webcasts? From the Moritz Legal Information Blog:

- Determine whether the court is "hot" (asks many questions) or "cold" (asks few questions) to prepare for oral argument
- Find similar cases (from your state or another state) to determine what issues concerned the judges
- Learn about the etiquette and procedures for a court before appearing there

May 25, 2006

Justice Bradley's Reflections on the Sir Richard May Seminar on International Law and International Courts

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has written a piece for the International Judicial Monitor describing her experience at the first Sir Richard May Seminar on International Law and International Courts at The Hague, Netherlands last September.

"It was simply the best judicial education opportunity that I have ever experienced," she writes. Read the article to learn why.

Thanks to my colleague, Bill Ebbott, for the tip.

May 17, 2006

"Cookie Therapy Works Again"

From The Third Branch: Dodge County Judge Andy Bissonnette reports on the remarkable effect of a plate of treats in small claims court.

Check out the P.S. - too funny.

Hmong Legal Glossary

From the Wisconsin Court System's The Third Branch:


The Director of State Courts Office in April published the first Hmong-English legal glossary in the United States. It defines more than 800 common court terms and suggests equivalent Hmong phrases for many of them. . .

The glossary defines general court terms and specific terms for criminal, juvenile, family, eviction, small claims, probate, and deportation cases. The equivalent Hmong phrases will help court interpreters develop common usages and attain the speed necessary for simultaneous interpretation. It also will be used by court interpreter programs in Wisconsin and Minnesota for training Hmong interpreters and helping them prepare for the oral certification exam. . .

The 75-page glossary can be downloaded from the court's Web site.

May 4, 2006

Spanish Language Circuit Court Forms

"The Director of State Courts Office recently introduced sixteen Spanish language circuit court forms on the court system's website. The forms were selected by a subcommittee composed of members of the court system's Interpreter Committee and Records Management Committee, to help meet the growing need for Spanish language court forms."

Read more at WSLL @ Your Service.

April 27, 2006

Judge Creates Secret Code of His Own in Da Vinci Ruling

UPDATE: Da Vinci judge's secret code revealed


The judge's secret message was: "Jackie Fisher, who are you? Dreadnought" ...

Judge Smith is known as a navy buff, and Fisher was a Royal Navy admiral who developed the idea for a giant battleship called the HMS Dreadnought in the early 20th century.


--------------------------

From Reuters:

Three weeks after a British court passed judgment in the copyright case involving Dan Brown's bestseller "The Da Vinci Code," a lawyer has uncovered what may be a secret message buried in the text of the ruling.

Lawyer Dan Tench noticed some letters in the judgment had been italicized, and it suddenly dawned on him that they spelled a phrase that included the name of the judge: "Smith code."

The italicized letters scattered throughout the judgment spell out: "smithcodeJaeiextostpsacgreamqwfkadpmqz." Those in the first paragraphs spell out "smith code." But what does the rest mean?

The opinion in question appears to be Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh v. The Random House Group Limited, High Court of Justice Chancery Division, Case No: HC04C03092, [2006] EWHC 719 (Ch), [2006] All ER (D) 113 (Apr). It's available on Westlaw and LexisNexis, although I didn't see that any random letters were italicized.

April 19, 2006

Korea Explores the Use of Blogs in Court Proceedings

From the Korea Times:

Weblogs, or Internet diaries, are about to gain more than just curious readers. Korean courts are now experimenting whether they could operate court trials and hearings just through Internet postings, saving everybody the trouble of actually entering the courtroom.

The Seoul Administration Court recently designated one of its court units, which rules on labor-management relations and industrial accidents, to develop a prototype model for Internet-based trial models by the end of this month.

Although the court has not yet decided on a detailed framework, it plans to allow the parties in lawsuits to submit their list of evidence, legal documents and other data on Weblogs or Internet message boards to be operated by the court. The court decisions will also be announced online.

Source: Between Lawyers

Judges' Opinions on Blogging

In his blog, 3L Epiphany, Ian Best, a student at Moritz College of Law (Ohio State University), has some fascinating posts exploring judges' opinions on blogging. Best surveyed two judges, Judith Lanzinger (Ohio Sup. Ct.) and Richard Kopf (U.S. District Judge, Nebraska), about their thoughts on citing blogs, blogs as legitimate forms of scholarship, blogs v. law reviews, and more.

Judge Lanzinger on predictions about the effect of legal blogs on the profession:


Assuming that legal blogs are now in their infancy, and that they will grow to have a long and fruitful life, I think that lawyers who ignore them altogether will do so at their peril.

Judge Kopf on whether blogs are substantial and legitimate forms of scholarship:

Sure, at least some of them are "substantial and legitimate forms of scholarship." Blogs written by lawyers, judges, law professors and law students that provide solid information and critical analysis on subjects the authors know something about are just as authoritative as other secondary sources.

Judge Kopf on advantages and disadvantages of legal blogs compared to law reviews and other traditional forms of scholarship:

The advantages are obvious: speed, availability, and topicality. I don't see real disadvantages.

Source: Slaw

April 18, 2006

Westlaw Introduces eForms

Westlaw recently released a new service called Westlaw eForms. These fill-in-the-blank forms are available for federal courts, state and local courts, bankruptcy courts, and government agencies. Forms are both saveable and emailable.

For more information, see the guide to Completing Westlaw eForms.

April 13, 2006

Supreme Court Votes to Allow Citation to Unpublished Opinions in Federal Courts

Law.com reports that Supreme Court Votes to Allow Citation to Unpublished Opinions in Federal Courts

The Supreme Court on Wednesday adopted a historic rule change that will allow lawyers to cite so-called unpublished opinions in federal courts starting next year. The new rule takes effect unless Congress countermands it before Dec. 1. . .

Under the new rule, circuits will still be able to give varying precedential weight to unpublished opinions, but they can no longer keep lawyers from citing them -- in the same way lawyers cite rulings from other circuits or other authorities, such as law review articles.

Source: beSpacific

April 11, 2006

CourtTracker = CCAP on Steroids

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Barry and Jo from Court Data Technologies. They introduced me to their new CourtTracker service and I must say that I was impressed.

Basically, CourtTracker takes CCAP case data (Wisconsin circuit courts) and allows you to search it in powerful ways not available via CCAP. It's like CCAP on steroids.

You can search cases by specific statute(s), prosecutor(s), and/or judge(s). If I were a criminal defense attorney, I think that it would be very helpful to quickly see see the history of how certain judges and prosecutors have treated similar cases in plea arrangements and sentencing.

A screen shot of a sample search appears below. Note that I had to cut out some of the sentencing information to make the screen shot legible here.

It seems that there are also two additional enhancements to CourtTracker which are still in development. The first is an individualized calendar of your court dates. The second is a disposition report feature which gives you a quick statistical analysis of end results of cases with similar facts.

Overall, I think that this is a very powerful tool. I did have a couple of suggestions that I mentioned to Barry and Jo, however. The search screen doesn't seem terribly intuitive to me. It requires that the user know to change tabs at the top to view search results. Apparently, it was designed this way to promote versatility results navigation. I don't know - I still like the comfort of a search button.

Barry and Jo also shared with me that there are a couple of quirks with the CCAP data that could affect results. Although this was noted on a separate help screen, I suggested that it might be helpful to display it somewhere on the search results page. But these are very small hiccups in what is an otherwise great product.

CourtTracker is available by annual subscription to firms. Prices vary by number of attorney per firm. Court Data Tech staff also do customized research for those who do not subscribe to CourtTracker.

March 27, 2006

Judging By His Handwriting

Here's a funny one from the Smoking Gun: Judging By His Handwriting

MARCH 14--It seems that there is a serious penmanship problem with lawyers filing documents in Mississippi's Eighth Circuit Court. So much so that the presiding judge there issued the below order warning attorneys that the court clerk would now reject pleadings and motions containing illegible signatures. The judicial order, filed February 3, will be enforced by clerks in four Mississippi counties: Leake, Neshoba, Newton, and Scott.

Now here's the funny part: We defy you to make out the signature of the judge who issued the handwriting order.

A copy of the opinion appears at the Smoking Gun.

Source: Law Librarian Blog

March 21, 2006

Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated

On the UW Law Library New Book Shelf: Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated

Chapter one features an "oral history" by Chris Ochoa, entitled "My Life Is a Broken Puzzle." Currently a law student at the UW Law School, he spent 12 years in prison for a crime he did not commit and was exonerated thanks to the Wisconsin Innocence Project.

Thanks to Bill Ebbott for the tip.

Free Federal District Court Opinions via PACER

PACER is now offering free access to opinions in federal district courts using CM/ECF version 2.4 or higher. CM/ECF is the Federal Judiciary's Case Management/Electronic Case Files System.

This applies to the Eastern District of Wisconsin which uses CM/ECF Version 2.5. The Western District of Wisconsin, however, apparently does not use the CM/ECF system.

The opinions are available under the "Reports" menu in PACER. You may also access opinions via existing reports and queries, such as the docket report. You will not be billed for accessing the written opinion document itself, but will be billed for the report or query used to identify the document.

Note that PACER only provides free access to opinions filed after the court is actively using version 2.4. Earlier opinions may be subject to fees.

March 15, 2006

Article: Make the Most of Courtroom Technology

An interesting article on courtroom technology appears in Law.com's Small Firm Business. The author describes various technologies being used in the courtroom today and the benefits of a paperless presentation.

Source: Legal Technology Blog

March 7, 2006

Judge Quotes Scene from "Billy Madison"

The Smoking Gun reports that "in what is surely a first for the federal judiciary, a Texas bankruptcy judge has quoted from the Adam Sandler film canon in a recent opinion. Dismissing a motion due to 'incomprehensibility,' Judge Leif Clark cited a scene from 'Billy Madison,' Sandler's 1995 comedy, in a footnote to a February 21 court order."

"Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Ouch. See a complete copy of the Order Denying Motion for Incomprehensibility at The Smoking Gun.

February 27, 2006

LexisNexis Introduces Service of Process

From TVC Alert:


LexisNexis this week introduced a new litigation tool called LexisNexis Service of Process. The service facilitates fast, reliable service of summonses, complaints, subpoenas and other documents via an established network of process servers. It is available through LexisNexis File & Serve, an Internet-based service provided to courts and law firms to enable the electronic exchange -- filing and service -- of legal documents such as complaints, pleadings, exhibits and proposed orders.

February 6, 2006

Caseload Stats, Judicial Compensation & Dane Cty Courthouse

The Winter 2006 edition of The Third Branch is now available. The Third Branch is a quarterly publication providing news of interest to the Wisconsin Court System.

Highlights include:
- Evaluation of caseload statistics
- Update on judicial compensation
- Opening of new Dane County Courthouse