Articles Tagged with fdsys

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959347_magnifying_glassThe Administrative Office of the Courts announced yesterday that FDSys will now include opinions from 64 federal courts.  The program to integrate federal court opinions into FDSys began in 2011.  In 2011, they added opinions from 12 courts. In 2012, they increased that number to 28 courts.  In February of this year, they announced that they were expanding the program. And now we know they have increased the number of courts to 64. According to today’s press release, they are backfilling some jurisdictions, putting in an archive back to 2004. They claim to have 750,000 opinions in FDSys now.

According to the statement, “FDsys currently contains opinions from 8 appellate courts, 20 district courts, and 35 bankruptcy courts.”  To put this in perspective, there are 17 circuit courts, 94 district courts, and 195 bankruptcy courts.  All together, they are pulling opinions from 63 of 307 federal courts (roughly). That’s 21% of the federal jurisdictions in 3 years.

As usual, I feel compelled to say “it’s great that they’re doing this, BUT”—they’re focusing on the wrong things. Why are they pulling documents from district courts and bankruptcy courts? The case law that most people care about is appellate opinions that create precedent.  In federal jurisdictions, this means the Circuit Courts of Appeal and the United States Supreme Court.  FDSys has no SCOTUS opinions (which are freely available on the Court’s site), and only about half of the Circuit Courts of Appeal.  Some district court opinions are interesting and useful, and I suppose the same is true for bankruptcy court opinions, but why are they being added ahead of the Supreme Court? 750,000 documents is a lot—my guess is they’re pulling in random orders and rulings that are part of the public record but not especially useful in legal research.


Tagged: aoc, fdsys, free law

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filing_cabinetsThe Judicial Council announced last week that they plan to expand a pilot program to push federal court opinions to FDSys. In theory, that means that all federal court opinions could be published and freely available in the FDSys database soon.

FDSys is the digital repository for federal publications. It is operated by the Government Printing Office. Last year, the Judicial Council announced that it would begin integrating some opinions from PACER into FDSys. It began with opinions from 28 courts (three circuit courts of appeal). In December, I checked up on that and saw that FDSys had slip opinions in it and that they were actually being indexed by Google. I noted that they were a little behind, and they were slip opinions, not the officially published opinion, but hey – better than nothing.

In the latest announcement, the Judicial Council tells us that  “the functionality to transfer opinions to FDsys is included in the latest release of CM/ECF which is now available to all courts. Twenty-nine courts participated in the original pilot, and now, all courts may opt to participate in the program.” If I am reading this correctly, federal courts may now opt in to have their opinions transferred to FDSys. It’s not automatic or mandatory.


Posted in: Laws, Legal Research
Tagged: fdsys, free law, gpo

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The Administrative Office of the US Courts issued a press release last week announcing that a “New Pilot Project Will Enhance Public Access to Federal Court Opinions.” According to the statement, select federal appellate and district courts will make their published opinions available on FDSys, as “FDSys can provide the public with a robust search engine that can search common threads across opinions and courts.” FDSys is run by the Government Printing Office (GPO), which issued a similar statement.

Let me start by saying I think this is a good thing. PACER has a lot of limitations, and moving opinions into a better search engine that is free to use and search is quite helpful. I like the idea of putting the bulk of government legal material (cases, codes, memos, etc.) into one database. It helps that the database will have the imprimatur of government on it, which will quiet the concerns about authentication that always pop up in these discussions.


Tagged: Case Law, fdsys, gpo, pacer