US Supreme Court moving to digital filing system in 2016

By: Terrence O’Brien

91222902The Supreme Court of the US has stuck stubbornly to its ways. No cameras in the court room, a paper filing system, those robes… which are so last century. That may begin to change over the next couple of years however. In a year-end report released Wednesday night, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the court would begin accepting electronic filings as early as 2016. The court will have to first develop the system, then it will be rolled out in stages. At first paper documents will be used as the default, but those represented by attorneys in the court will also have to file the same documents electronically. Once that trial proves successful, digital documents will become the default for everyone. Though, paper filings will still be required. As Justice Roberts explained in the report, “Unlike commercial enterprises, the courts cannot decide to serve only the most technically-capable or well-equipped segments of the public… the courts must remain open for those who do not have access to personal computers.”

Obviously, one of the biggest concerns for the new system will be security. The privacy concerns of the plaintiffs, defendants and those testifying before the court is of the utmost importance. This is one of the many reasons that Roberts gives for the seemingly tortoise-like pace at which the Supreme Court adopts new technologies. (It took 37 years for the institution to even consider pneumatic tubes for sending documents between offices.) But, while he admits that a guarded approach to new technology is often a necessity for the federal court system, he acknowledges that its ways can seem archaic and inefficient. And even admits that some are… you know, like this reliance on flattened dead tree pulp

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