Law.com reports that Supreme Court Votes to Allow Citation to Unpublished Opinions in Federal Courts
The Supreme Court on Wednesday adopted a historic rule change that will allow lawyers to cite so-called unpublished opinions in federal courts starting next year. The new rule takes effect unless Congress countermands it before Dec. 1. . .
Under the new rule, circuits will still be able to give varying precedential weight to unpublished opinions, but they can no longer keep lawyers from citing them — in the same way lawyers cite rulings from other circuits or other authorities, such as law review articles.
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Barry and Jo from Court Data Technologies. They introduced me to their new CourtTracker service and I must say that I was impressed.
Basically, CourtTracker takes CCAP case data (Wisconsin circuit courts) and allows you to search it in powerful ways not available via CCAP. It’s like CCAP on steroids.
You can search cases by specific statute(s), prosecutor(s), and/or judge(s). If I were a criminal defense attorney, I think that it would be very helpful to quickly see see the history of how certain judges and prosecutors have treated similar cases in plea arrangements and sentencing.
A screen shot of a sample search appears below. Note that I had to cut out some of the sentencing information to make the screen shot legible here.
It seems that there are also two additional enhancements to CourtTracker which are still in development. The first is an individualized calendar of your court dates. The second is a disposition report feature which gives you a quick statistical analysis of end results of cases with similar facts.
Overall, I think that this is a very powerful tool. I did have a couple of suggestions that I mentioned to Barry and Jo, however. The search screen doesn’t seem terribly intuitive to me. It requires that the user know to change tabs at the top to view search results. Apparently, it was designed this way to promote versatility results navigation. I don’t know – I still like the comfort of a search button.
Barry and Jo also shared with me that there are a couple of quirks with the CCAP data that could affect results. Although this was noted on a separate help screen, I suggested that it might be helpful to display it somewhere on the search results page. But these are very small hiccups in what is an otherwise great product.
CourtTracker is available by annual subscription to firms. Prices vary by number of attorney per firm. Court Data Tech staff also do customized research for those who do not subscribe to CourtTracker.
Here’s a funny one from the Smoking Gun: Judging By His Handwriting
MARCH 14–It seems that there is a serious penmanship problem with lawyers filing documents in Mississippi’s Eighth Circuit Court. So much so that the presiding judge there issued the below order warning attorneys that the court clerk would now reject pleadings and motions containing illegible signatures. The judicial order, filed February 3, will be enforced by clerks in four Mississippi counties: Leake, Neshoba, Newton, and Scott.
Now here’s the funny part: We defy you to make out the signature of the judge who issued the handwriting order.
A copy of the opinion appears at the Smoking Gun.
Source: Law Librarian Blog
PACER is now offering free access to opinions in federal district courts using CM/ECF version 2.4 or higher. CM/ECF is the Federal Judiciary’s Case Management/Electronic Case Files System.
This applies to the Eastern District of Wisconsin which uses CM/ECF Version 2.5. The Western District of Wisconsin, however, apparently does not use the CM/ECF system.
The opinions are available under the “Reports” menu in PACER. You may also access opinions via existing reports and queries, such as the docket report. You will not be billed for accessing the written opinion document itself, but will be billed for the report or query used to identify the document.
Note that PACER only provides free access to opinions filed after the court is actively using version 2.4. Earlier opinions may be subject to fees.
An interesting article on courtroom technology appears in Law.com’s Small Firm Business. The author describes various technologies being used in the courtroom today and the benefits of a paperless presentation.
Source: Legal Technology Blog
The Smoking Gun reports that “in what is surely a first for the federal judiciary, a Texas bankruptcy judge has quoted from the Adam Sandler film canon in a recent opinion. Dismissing a motion due to ‘incomprehensibility,’ Judge Leif Clark cited a scene from ‘Billy Madison,’ Sandler’s 1995 comedy, in a footnote to a February 21 court order.”
“Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
Ouch. See a complete copy of the Order Denying Motion for Incomprehensibility at The Smoking Gun.
The Winter 2006 edition of The Third Branch is now available. The Third Branch is a quarterly publication providing news of interest to the Wisconsin Court System.
– Evaluation of caseload statistics
– Update on judicial compensation
– Opening of new Dane County Courthouse