Wednesday, June 4, 2014

US Courts Opinions on FDsys

FDsys, the Government Printing Office's Federal Digital System, reached one billion retrievals this spring. The one billionth document was a Federal Register notice from the SEC, and the single most downloaded document is PL 111-148 (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), but one of the most interesting new and expanding collections on FDsys is USCOURTS.

USCOURTS is a collaborative effort between GPO and the Administrative Office of the US Courts to provide public access to opinions from appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. Opinions are authenticated with digital signatures, based on the secure transfer of files to GPO. Started as a pilot program in 2011, it was opened to all federal courts in January, 2013. Opinions go back as far as 2004, but note that earlier years are incomplete.

The collection is growing nicely. In November, 2013, 64 courts participated (up from the 29 in the pilot program). As of May, 2014, 87 courts, plus the U.S. Court of International Trade, are participating and more are expected to be added this year. Although not quite half of the federal courts have voluntarily opted in, the collection is consistently one of the most used on FDsys. USCOURTS is worth trying - and definitely worth keeping an eye on - since FDsys offers free, authentic, and digitally signed PDF documents.

Looking for a court not yet available on FDsys? Need older opinions? Check out the Gallagher Law Library's Free Law Online guide to U.S. Court Opinions for more information.

U.S. Courthouse (1941), Seattle, WA.
Completed in 1940. Source: National Archives
U.S. Post Office, Court House, & Custom House (1941), Spokane, WA.
Completed in 1909. Source: National Archives

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