The Judicial Conference of the United States has approved key steps to improve public access to federal court records. These steps include:
- Increasing the availability of court opinions
- Expanding court services, and
- Reducing the costs for many users of the Public Access to Electronic Court Records (PACER) system.
They also added a pilot program to publish federal district and bankruptcy court opinions via the Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System, so the public can more easily search across opinions and across courts.
These changes not only make it easier for the public to get information, they also aid attorneys investigating client claims.
Potential privacy issues that may arise from greater electronic access to records are addressed by amendments to the Federal Appellate, Bankruptcy, Civil, and Criminal Rules of Procedure to require that filers redact certain “personal identifier” information, such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, minor children’s names, financial account numbers, and in criminal cases, home addresses, from their filings.
For more on searching for public records, see Privacy Compliance and Litigation in California §12.3 (Cal CEB 2008).
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