U.S. Supreme Court to begin electronic filing in November

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: The U.S. Supreme Court is shown as the court meets to issue decisions May 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. The court today sided in a 7-1 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts with a Georgia inmate on death row in his appeal to the court citing efforts by prosecutors to exclude African Americans from a jury panel in the murder case. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court will begin using an electronic filing system for documents starting in November, a move other federal courts began decades ago.

The court said in a statement Thursday that the new system will begin operation on Nov. 13. Initially, attorneys will have to submit documents both electronically and on paper, the court said. Litigants who aren’t represented by attorneys, mainly prisoners filing on their own behalf, won’t submit through the electronic system, but their paper filings will be scanned and made available by the court. Once the system is in place, virtually all new filings will be available for free to the public, the court said.

The system has been in the works for several years. Chief Justice John Roberts said in a 2014 end of year report that the court was developing the system, saying it “may be operational as soon as 2016.” In the same report, he acknowledged that courts are often slow to adopt new technology.

“While courts routinely consider evidence and issue decisions concerning the latest technological advances, they have proceeded cautiously when it comes to adopting new technologies in certain aspects of their own operations,” he wrote.

He noted that the Supreme Court, in 1935, had belatedly embraced pneumatic tubes as a means of delivering copies of opinions to reporters and that the technology was overdue to be scrapped when the court stopped using it 1971.

Lower federal courts have been quicker to embrace electronic filing. Testing of an electronic filing system began in the late 1990s, with electronic filing available in nearly all federal courts by 2007, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Documents are available to the public through the PACER website , short for Public Access to Court Electronic Records. Accessing documents costs 10 cents per page, though that’s capped at $3 a document and there’s no cost for looking at opinions or viewing documents at public access terminals at courthouses. Roberts said in 2014 that attorneys were filing 2.5 million documents a month electronically and that there were more than a billion viewable documents.

The availability of electronic filing at the Supreme Court follows the debut of its redesigned website in late July. Improvements to the site better support electronic filing, the court said, ahead of the website’s unveiling. In November, a link on the website’s home page will allow the public to access case documents. Attorneys will have to register to file documents.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.