US Supreme Court enters 21st Century, takes a technological step forward
US Supreme Court enters 21st Century, takes a technological step forward
Can livestreamed audio of arguments and even televised sessions be far behind? Yes, they can.
But advocates of court openness will take what they can get for now, especially because the Supreme Court will not charge for documents. The federal courts’ PACER system does charge fees.
“Though the Supreme Court has moved glacially to join the rest of the judiciary in permitting online filing, that’s better than not at all, and the institution should be commended for creating an e-filing system that, unlike PACER, will be free and easily accessible to the public,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court.
Over the years, the justices have at times shown a glancing familiarity with technology. Some carry computer tablets with high court briefs loaded on them. But notes between justices are routinely sent on paper, definitely not by email.
Chief Justice John Roberts himself noted a few years back that the court stuck with pneumatic tubes to transmit newly released opinions from the courtroom to reporters waiting one floor below until 1971, long after their heyday.
Roberts said that it’s appropriate for courts “to be late to the harvest of American ingenuity” because their primary role is to resolve disputes fairly.
Many Supreme Court legal briefs already are available online and for free from several sources. Scotusblog.com obtains and posts many of them, along with opinions. The Justice Department has an easily accessible archive of its extensive high court filings on its website, and the American Bar Association posts briefs in the 70 to 80 cases the court agrees to hear each term.
But the public may not know to look elsewhere. When the justices issued their highly anticipated decision upholding President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in 2012, the court’s website was overwhelmed.
It, too, has recently been overhauled to make it friendlier to the public.
The Supreme Court updates come amid criticism of the PACER system as outmoded and unfair. “The PACER system used by the lower federal courts is hopelessly outdated and cumbersome. And, to add insult to injury, the PACER system charges people fees to access court records that should be made freely available,” said Deepak Gupta, the lead attorney in a class-action lawsuit challenging PACER fees.
The judiciary says the fees provide the only money to pay for the system.
The cost to users was just one among several reasons the court opted not to join the PACER system, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.
“The court elected to design its system in-house so that it would have the capability to customize and continuously update to meet the distinctive needs of the court and counsel,” Arberg said.
Until now, lawyers have not been required to submit their filings to the court electronically. Beginning Monday, those documents should appear quickly on the court’s website. People who can’t afford to pay court costs will be allowed to file paper copies, which Supreme Court employees will scan and post online.
Not everything is changing. Lawyers still will be required to submit up to 40 paper copies of every brief, and the court’s color-coding system to distinguish types of briefs also will remain.
There’s no timetable for electronic filings to supplant paper as the official court record.
And there’s also no expectation that the justices will drop their prohibition on cameras in the courtroom anytime soon.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who once sounded open to cameras, recently told a New York audience that cameras might detract from the robust exchanges during arguments.
The Supreme Court also refuses to livestream audio of its arguments, even as the federal appeals court just down Capitol Hill recently has allowed live audio access to its hearings. The high court posts transcripts within hours of arguments, but doesn’t release the audio for days.
US slaps travel curb on Pakistan envoys as feud deepens
- Travel restrictions on diplomats imposed by Pakistan and the US reflect a deterioration in an already strained relationship, foreign affairs experts say.
- Former Pakistan envoy says the US move shows resentment at Islamabad’s reaction to a fatal road accident on April 7 involving a US embassy vehicle and a motorcyclist.
ISLAMABAD: The US will place “reciprocal restrictions” on the movement of Pakistani diplomats in the country from May 1, forcing envoys to stay within 40 kilometers of the city in which they are posted, a senior US State Department official said.
In an interview with the Voice of America’s Uzbek service on Tuesday, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon said the US was taking the step because Islamabad had imposed similar curbs on American diplomats in Pakistan.
“Our diplomats are under travel restrictions. They can travel further but have to notify the government of Pakistan,” Shannon said.
The US official said that American diplomats in Pakistan were not allowed to visit the tribal belt or Karachi.
The US Embassy in Islamabad has refused to confirm if restrictions are being placed on Pakistani diplomats in Washington.
“We are not prepared to announce anything on this matter,” an embassy spokesperson said when asked about Shannon’s comments.
However, the spokesman confirmed Pakistan’s restrictions on US diplomats in response to query by Arab News.
“Yes, there are longstanding restrictions on movement of diplomats, including Americans, in Pakistan,” the spokesperson said.
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammed Faisal declined to comment on the issue.
He also refused to address the subject in his weekly briefing last week, with media reports suggesting the Foreign Office had received an official letter from the US government on the matter.
“Regarding the restrictions on Pakistani diplomats, we do not comment on media reports,” the spokesman said on April 12 following claims that the State Department had decided to take reciprocal action against Pakistani diplomats.
However, Shannon acknowledged in this interview on Tuesday that “typically, these kinds of restrictions are reciprocal in nature, so I’ll just leave it at that.”
The already tense relationship between Pakistan and the US deteriorated further after President Donald Trump accused Islamabad of lying to the US and offering “little help in hunting “terrorists” in neighboring Afghanistan. The US later suspended $2 billion in security assistance to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s restrictions on diplomats began after a US Embassy vehicle driven by a defense attache struck and killed a Pakistani motorcyclist in Islamabad on April 7.
Foreign affairs observers say that restrictions by both sides reflect a further deterioration in the strained relationship.
Pakistan former Ambassador Mian Sanaullah said the road accident led to flare-up between the two countries, with Pakistan taking action because of the likelihood of public protests and media criticism.
“Instead of sympathizing with Pakistan and the relatives of the deceased, and helping the family, the US has gone on the defensive by invoking reciprocity in term of diplomats’ movement,” the former envoy said.
Raoof Hasan, chief executive of the Islamabad-based independent Regional Peace Institute, said the restrictions showed “mutual growing mistrust” between the two countries.