Showing posts with label PACER. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PACER. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Supreme Court Opinions in the Same-Sex Marriage Cases

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court released two opinions related to same-sex marriage.

United States v. Windsor (Defense of Marriage Act)

In United States v. Windsor, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion finding that the federal Defense of Marriage Act "is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment." The Defense of Marriage Act prevented Petitioner Edith Windsor from benefiting from the surviving spouse provisions of federal estate tax law.

That opinion as well as the dissents of Justices Roberts, Scalia, and Alito can be found here.

For further reading, here is a 2004 report prepared by the Government Accountability Office that lists all of the then 1,138 statutes affected by the Defense of Marriage Act.

Hollingsworth v. Perry (California's Proposition 8)

In the second case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Supreme Court refused to decide the issue of the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a 2008 California voter-passed initiative amending the California Constitution to define marriage as between "a man and a woman." Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, explained that the court did not have the jurisdiction to decide the constitutionality of the law.

When California same-sex couples who wished to marry brought suit in federal district court to challenge Proposition 8, the California officials responsible for enforcing it (including then governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger) refused to defend the law. The District Court then  allowed the official Proposition 8 supporters to intervene and defend its constitutionality. After a bench trial, the District Court declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and the Ninth Circuit eventually affirmed this decision. The Supreme Court case hinged on the issue of the standing of these non-government officials to defend a state statute in federal court.

In today's opinion, Chief Justice Roberts reminded us that the Supreme Court has "never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to." He went on further to say that "[w]e decline to do so for the first time here" and concluded that the Ninth Circuit did not have the jurisdiction to consider the original appeal, vacating its decision, and remanding it back to the Ninth Circuit with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry, including the majority opinion of Chief Justice Roberts and a dissent by Justice Kennedy, can be found here. 

For further understanding of the procedural history of this case,  take a look at the original complaint in Perry et al. v. Schwarzenegger et al., filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. This and other documents filed in the District Court case can be found for free through RECAP, a service that archives publicly available documents filed in many federal courts and downloaded through PACER.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

PACER Docket Updates by RSS Feed

Many federal district courts now offer RSS feeds to keep users apprised of developments in cases they have selected The Individual Courts PACER Sites page displays the RSS icon next to the name of each court that offers this service.

Don't know much about PACER? See other Gallagher Blogs posts on this subject or the list of questions and answers on the PACER site.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

PACER iPhone App

The federal courts have released an iPhone app for accessing district court records from PACER.

Users need to have already registered for a PACER account and the app can be used to view documents but not to file documents.

The link provides a list of features as well as Frequently Asked Questions.

See previous posts on PACER on this blog.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Federal Courts Offering Digital Audio Recordings Online

The Third Branch, a newsletter from the Administrative Office of the US Courts, notes that 30 bankruptcy and district courts are planning to post digital audio recordings of proceedings via PACER.

The fee for downloading these files is $2.40 each.

Courts that are currently posting these files are:
  • District courts of Nebraska and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Bankruptcy courts of the Northern District of Alabama, Maine, the Eastern District of North Carolina, Rhode Island, the Middle District of Florida, and the Eastern District of Washington
Courts that are preparing to implement recording include:
  • the Southern District Court of Alabama
  • Bankruptcy courts of Alaska, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, the Eastern District of Michigan, the Middle District of North Carolina, the Middle District of Tennessee, the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and Vermont
Courts that will be participating in the near future are the bankruptcy courts in:
  • Northern District of California
  • the District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Southern District of Indiana
  • Western District of Louisiana
  • Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Western District of Michigan
  • Eastern District of Missouri
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Southern District of West Virginia

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Enhanced Access to Federal Court Records

The Judicial Conference of the United States recently approved several changes regarding public access to federal court records on PACER. Changes include:
  • Selected digital audio recordings of court hearings (at the discretion of the presiding judge; $2.40 per audio file).
  • No billing unless an account accrues charges of more than $10 per quarter (the former limit was $10 in a year).
  • A pilot project for opinions from up to 12 courts to appear in the Government Printing Office's FDsys service.
For more information, read the press release: Judiciary Approves PACER Innovations to Enhance Public Access.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Plea for Better Access to PACER

PACER is the online docketing system for federal courts. We have a subscription, and reference librarians will happily do searches and retrieve material for law faculty and law students for academic projects.

Why do we restrict it? Well, because we can't afford to have the bills pile up. Erika Wayne, a law librarian at Stanford, makes a plea for much wider, easier, and cheaper access to this important database funded by taxpayers: What public access?, Nat'l L.J., Sept. 14, 2009. If you agree with Erika, the article includes a link to a petition where you can speak out.

The graphic above is the beginning of a pleading we downloaded from a district court proceeding in United States v. Padilla. It's great to be able to get material like this. Not so long ago, we would have needed to find a courier to go to the court or pay the court (in advance) to photocopy and mail the document. The question is: should access be even better?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Federal Court Records to the Public?

The New York Times reports on activists' efforts to make federal court dockets available online free (currently there's a charge of 8 cents a page). An Effort to Upgrade a Court Archive System to Free and Easy -, Feb. 12, 2009.

The value of open access is in tension with privacy concerns. One expert quoted is local assistant U.S. Attorney Peter A. Winn, who also teaches privacy law here at the UW. (Scroll to the bottom of the page of IP faculty bios to learn more about Mr. Winn.)