Release Notes, District CM/ECF Version 2.4,  3/7/05

Public Access Changes

I. Public Access to Written Opinions

CM/ECF has been modified to accommodate the Written Opinions and other requirements of the E-Government Act of 2002 (H.R. 2458). In particular, Sections 204 & 205.

The public will not be charged for viewing documents that are deemed written opinions. Included in CM/ECF Version 2.4 is a free report that allows PACER users to search for written opinions. Following is the selection criteria screen for the new free Written Opinions report.

Selection Criteria Screen for the Written Opinions Report (Free to PACER Users)

PACER users can also access opinions via existing reports and queries, such as the docket report, and will not be billed for accessing the written opinion document itself, but will be billed for the report or query used to identify the document. For example, if a PACER user runs a docket report, the user will be charged for the docket report (as usual). If the user then clicks on the document number hyperlink for a written opinion document, the user will not be charged for viewing the document.

If a PACER user views a written opinion document, there will be no PACER billing receipt on the screen since there is no charge. Further, viewing a written opinion document will not result in an entry in the Review Billing History report.

II. Case Information on PDF Documents

A new feature was added to District CM/ECF to allow case information to be displayed in the form of headers on PDF documents. This feature is optional and is activated only at the discretion of each court. If a court activates the PDF header function and allows attorney users to modify their accounts by using the Maintain Your Accounts utility, then attorney users can de-activate the new feature by de-selecting the Add Headers to PDF Documents check box (as shown below). PACER users may not de-activate the PDF header feature; if a court has activated the feature, then PACER users will always see headers on PDF documents.

Sample Maintain Your Account Screen for an Attorney User

Following is an example of the top portion of a document that displays PDF headers. The format and content of the headers are determined by each court. Attorney users who have not disabled the feature (if allowed to do so by the court), and who are accessing documents via PACER in a court that has activated the PDF headers feature, will see headers on PDF documents similar to the one shown below. If a court has activated the PDF headers, then PACER users will see headers on PDF documents similar to the one shown below.

Example of a Case Information Header on a PDF Document

Written Opinions

For the purposes of the E-Government Act of 2002 (H.R. 2458), “written opinion” is defined as, “any document issued by a judge or judges of the court, sitting in that capacity, that sets forth a reasoned explanation for a court’s decision.” This definition is clarified by the following points:

  1. The responsibility for determining which documents meet this definition rests with the authoring judge, and the determination should be made at the time the document is filed;

  2. The decision as to whether a document meets this definition is not the same as the decision about whether an opinion is to be published;

  3. The definition is expressly intended to cover reports and recommendations issued by magistrate judges at such time as any action is taken by a district judge on a report and recommendations issued by a magistrate judge, and also includes a summary order adopting such report and recommendations;

  4. The definition is not intended to include routine, non-substantive orders such as scheduling orders or rulings on motions for extension of time; and

  5. In the courts of appeals, only those documents designated as opinions of the court meet the definition of “written opinion.”