Figure 1: “More” information page from search results.
With an interest in increasing public access to court opinions, the Judicial Conference approved a recommendation of its Court Administration and Case Management Committee for a pilot project to make lower Federal court opinions available through FDsys. The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has been working closely with the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) to make this a reality.
The United States Courts Opinions collection in FDsys contains opinions from the Federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. The pilot recently moved from the development phase to the test phase. Initial testing is with three courts: the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, United States District Court District of Rhode Island, and United States Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Florida. The number of courts participating in the pilot will rapidly expand to twelve and, after testing, to more than thirty. The content of this collection dates back to April 2004, though searchable electronic holdings for some courts may be incomplete for this earlier time period.
The opinions are electronically transferred to GPO from the AOUSC’s Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) system. With the secure transfer of files, the chain of custody is maintained, allowing GPO to authenticate the files. The metadata is transmitted as an XML file to GPO from the AOUSC.
These opinions, and the corresponding metadata, are available from both the browse and search functions. This is retrievable from the “More” information link in the search/browse results (see Figure 1). The Document Context area of this page, shown in Figure 2, provides links to all opinions associated with a case. The oldest opinion is shown first. The highlighted text is for the retrieved opinion.
Figure 2: Document Context with associated opinions.
You will have the same advanced fielded search options and faceted navigation features you have come to expect in FDsys, as well as some that are unique to this collection. For example, in addition to other fields, you will be able to search by:
- Case Number
- Court Name
- Court Type
- District Case Type
- District Cause
- Docket Text
- Nature of Suit
- Party Name
- Party Role
See Figure 3 for the complete list of advanced search fields for the opinions.
Figure 3: Opinions advanced Search in FDsys.
Collection-specific navigators include year, court type, court name, circuit, and opinion filed year.
Having opinions accessible through FDsys provides the ability for users to search for opinions from one court, from select courts, and from all available courts, along with the ability to search for opinions in conjunction with other FDsys content.
These lower Federal court opinions represent new content for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). Superintendent of Documents Classification numbers and item numbers were established for this electronic content:
- United States Circuit Courts of Appeals Decisions and Opinions (EL)
JU 2.11: , 0743-D-01
- United States District Courts Decisions and Opinions (EL)
JU 4.15: , 0732-A-01
- United States Bankruptcy Courts Decisions and Opinions (EL)
JU 14.15: , 0742-C-01
It has been interesting working with these files to see how technologies have been adopted by judges to better convey a message in their opinions. Among the test files is an opinion from the United States District Court District of Rhode Island that has audio and video embedded in it. District Judge William E. Smith, in Uniloc USA, Inc. and Uniloc Singapore Private Limited v. Microsoft Corporation, used animation and audio of the testimony of a witness to more effectively explain how algorithms actually work. Judge Smith has explained that this was a far better way to convey such complex information in an opinion than what he could provide in a written explanation.
We hope you will be able to join us at the Depository Library Council Meeting and Federal Depository Library Conference, which will be held October 17-20 in Washington D.C., to see this new FDsys collection demonstrated. GPO and the AOUSC look forward to your comments and suggestions. There will be other chances for feedback as well. For those of you who will not be in attendance at the conference, you still will have an opportunity to comment through FDsys, the FDLP Desktop, and askGPO. Look for an upcoming announcement for the release of the public beta testing.
It’s been a pleasure to work with the AOUSC to make the collection of opinions available through FDsys. GPO looks forward to other possible opportunities to partner with them to make judicial information available to Federal depository libraries and the general public.