With New Website, SCOTUS Readies to Make All Filings Available Online

The Supreme Court launched a new website last week, providing various usability enhancements and, more significantly, laying the groundwork for an electronic filing system that will begin operation on Nov. 13.

Once the new e-filing system is in place, virtually all new filings will be accessible through the site without cost to the public and legal community, the court said in an announcement.

Initially, the court will require all parties to continue filing documents in hard copy. But parties who are represented by counsel will also be required to submit electronic versions. For parties appearing pro se, court staff will scan their documents and make them available for public access.

Attorneys who expect to file documents at the court will need to register in advance to obtain access to the e-filing system. Registration will open 4-8 weeks before the system begins operation, the court said. More information is available on the court’s website.

Apart from laying the groundwork for e-filing, the Supreme Court’s new website is a fairly modest step forward. The court’s public information office said that the new site has “a more consistent menu structure, a more interactive calendar, faster access through Quick Links, improved page load times, and reduced page scrolling.”

The enhanced calendar provides more detailed information about daily events at the court, including providing names and information about cases being argued, with links to the docket entries and questions at issue in each case.

A new addition to the site lists internet sources cited in opinions.

One notable feature is a new page listing internet sources cited in opinions. The page lists, by term and case, the URLs of each internet citation. But clicking on the URL takes you not to the source, but to a saved PDF copy of the source.

Clearly, this is intended to address the problem of link rot documented by Jonathan Zittrain, Kendra Albert and Lawrence Lessig in 2013, when they found that half of the URLs within Supreme Court opinions do not link to the originally cited information. Their response was to create Perma.cc, a service of the Harvard Law School Library that addresses link rot by archiving a record of the page.

The Supreme Court did not say whether it considered using Perma or, if so, why it chose not to.