California nonprofit pushes states to make jury instructions more broadly available

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org Inc. ruling, however, gave him new hope. In a 5-4 decision issued last April, the court sided with the California nonprofit Public.Resource.Org, which had been sued for copyright infringement by the State of Georgia for having purchased and posted the state’s official statutory code.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the majority opinion that “officials empowered to speak with the force of law cannot be the authors of—and therefore cannot copyright—the works they create in the course of their official duties.”

In May, Lanning contacted Carl Malamud, Public.Resource.Org’s founder and president, seeking assistance with his jury instructions efforts.

In the months since, Malamud has succeeded in prompting Wisconsin to make its jury instructions available for free. His nonprofit has also teamed with a University of California at Berkeley legal clinic in hopes of convincing California officials to remove copyright claims on the state’s jury instructions….”

Big Data for Justice. An open-access dataset of 80 million legal case records

“The 7000 odd courts that make up India’s lower judiciary processed more than 80 million cases between 2010–2018. That huge backlog and scarce resources plague Indian courts is well-known. But which districts bear the greatest burden? Where has delay in due process been the most crippling? Are the benches diverse — do they mirror the underlying population of a state? Have crimes against women been on the rise — are specific districts particularly notorious? These just scratch the surface of pressing questions on law and order in India, that can now be answered in a matter of minutes using the largest open-access dataset on judicial proceedings in the world….”

Suggested changes to the Open Courts Act

“We write on behalf of a group that has extensive experience building large public sites on the Internet. The purpose of this letter is to advance action on improving public access to federal court records, which are presently offered by the government through an outdated PACER system. We have extensive experience putting large government databases on the Internet and then working with public officials to help government do this work better. Our experience includes making available federal databases such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark database, the Securities and Exchange EDGAR database, the IRS Form 990 database, 14,000 hours of Congressional video from hearings posted at the request of the Speaker of the House, and over 6,000 government videos from the U.S. National Archives posted in cooperation with the Archivist of the United States. We have extensive experience working with legal information, and operate some of the largest sites for access to federal court filings, as well as the U.S. Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, the regulations of all 50 states, and much more….”

Suggested changes to the Open Courts Act

“We write on behalf of a group that has extensive experience building large public sites on the Internet. The purpose of this letter is to advance action on improving public access to federal court records, which are presently offered by the government through an outdated PACER system. We have extensive experience putting large government databases on the Internet and then working with public officials to help government do this work better. Our experience includes making available federal databases such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark database, the Securities and Exchange EDGAR database, the IRS Form 990 database, 14,000 hours of Congressional video from hearings posted at the request of the Speaker of the House, and over 6,000 government videos from the U.S. National Archives posted in cooperation with the Archivist of the United States. We have extensive experience working with legal information, and operate some of the largest sites for access to federal court filings, as well as the U.S. Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, the regulations of all 50 states, and much more….”

Preprints: Statement on Why LawArXiv is No Longer Accepting Submissions | LJ infoDOCKET

“In the past couple of weeks LawArXiv announced they were, “no longer able to accept new submissions.“ …

Today, we received the following statement from the LawArXiv Steering Committee with some additional details about what happened and plans for the future. 

The Steering Committee made the decision to end our partnership with the Center for Open Science this fall after an intense period of evaluation. The demands of the legal research community did not align fully with what we were able to provide with COS, and therefore we saw limited use of the site. Coupled with the need for COS to start charging a fee for the service, we made the difficult decision to suspend LawArXiv as of the beginning of 2021. We are currently working with an Exploratory Committee to determine the need for LawArXiv and to carefully consider the features that would be necessary should we relaunch. …”

 

Victory For Public Access To Court Documents – Free Law Project

“On Monday, the court issued a thoughtful order unsealing the case and the various submissions. The court held that the plaintiff’s interest in sealing her case cannot defeat the presumption of public access to the case’s docket and its filings. Both Free Law Project and the court agreed that plaintiff’s concerns were significant, but that “a private litigant’s general concerns about reputational harm or negative impact to her employment prospects are not sufficient to counteract the public’s First Amendment right to these court filings.” Dec. 28, 2020 Order at 8….”

House Passes Bill To Make Federal Court Records Free to the Public – Reason.com

“The House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday, over the objections of the federal judiciary, to make access to federal court records free to the public. 

By a voice vote, the House passed H.R. 8235, the Open Courts Act of 2020, which aims to modernize PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records)—a clunky and frustrating database of federal court filings maintained by the Administrative Office of the United States Court—and eliminate its paywall.

The database has long been the bane of lawyers, reporters, researchers, and citizen sleuths. PACER charges 10 cents a page for searches, court dockets, and documents, capped at $3.00 per document. Users who accrue less than $30 in fees every three months do not have to pay anything, which keeps casual users from being charged. But for others, costs can quickly pile up and there’s no alternative. Reason uses PACER on a daily basis to monitor civil rights lawsuits and report on the criminal justice system. As Seamus Hughes, a terrorism researcher who scours PACER for new prosecutions, lamented in Politico Magazine last year, “My work at The George Washington University’s Program on Extremism generates a quarterly PACER bill that could fund a coup in a small country.”

 

Even the Justice Department has to pay to use PACER. Between 2010 and 2017, the DOJ spent $124 million on federal court records….”

The federal judiciary should allow free access to public court records | R Street

“In September, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Open Courts Act of 2020 (H.R. 8235) by voice vote. The bipartisan bill—co-sponsored by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.)—seeks to knock down the current paywall around public federal court filings.

Today, the federal judiciary maintains online public court records, called the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system (PACER, for short). But, to view these records, PACER forces users to register for an account, provide credit card information, and then charges users 10 cents a page to download and view most public filings….”

Judges oppose new online database with free access to court records – The Washington Post

“Leaders of the federal judiciary are working to block bipartisan legislation designed to create a national database of court records that would provide free access to case documents.

Backers of the bill, who are pressing for a House vote in the coming days, envision a streamlined, user-friendly system that would allow citizens to search for court documents and dockets without having to pay. Under the current system, users pay 10 cents per page to view the public records through the service known as PACER, an acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records….”