The Supreme Court moves toward digital with online court filings

The Supreme Court moves toward digital with online court filings
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Supreme Court case documents will soon be made available for the first time online.

The court announced Thursday that it will launch an electronic filing system on Nov. 13 that will make "virtually all new filings" accessible to the public via the court’s website for free.

Court documents for the lower courts are typically available online through the Public Access to Court Electronics Records, which charges a fee per page.

The court’s announcement comes just days after the high court unveiled a newly designed website.

Court watchers say it’s a surprising, but welcome, jump into the 21st century for a court that’s been reluctant over the years to advance its technologies.

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“Anything that makes the court more accessible to the American people is a positive development,” said Dan Goldberg, legal director for the liberal Alliance for Justice.

“Look, there’s no reason in 2017 the American people should not be able to go on the court’s website and view filings and court documents that will directly impact millions of people without a cost to the public or the legal community.”

In its release, the Supreme Court’s press office said that initially filings will need to be made in paper in addition to the electronic version.

But in a fact sheet, the court said it expects the e-filing system to become the official means of filing once the system has operated effectively for some time.

"I think that is a wonderful idea," said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.

"Enhancing transparency and smooth, inexpensive public access should increase public comprehension of SCOTUS and its critical role in the justice system," he said.