The U.S. Supreme Court will switch to electronic case filing within the next two years — a move most of the nation's courts have long since made. But even when the Supreme Court fully adopts computer filing within the next two years, it will not abandon paper, said Chief Justice John Roberts in his annual year-end report on the federal judiciary.
"Unlike commercial enterprises, the courts cannot decide to serve only the most technically capable or well-equipped segments of the public. Indeed, the courts must remain open for those who do not have access to personal computers and need to file in paper, rather than electronic, form," Roberts said.
Once the system is operational, all official filings will be available to the public at no cost on the court's website. Roberts said courts often lag behind in adopting new technology, partly because of federal procurement and budgeting requirements.
But he said there's another concern that slows progress. "Litigation often involves sensitive matters: criminal prosecutions, bankruptcy petitions, malpractice suits, discrimination cases and patent disputes may all lead to the collection of confidential information that should be shielded from public view to protect the safety of witnesses, the privacy of litigants, and the integrity of the adjudicatory process. Courts understandably proceed cautiously in introducing new information technology systems until they have fairly considered how to keep the information contained therein secure from foreign and domestic hackers, whose motives may range from fishing for secrets to discrediting the government or impairing court operations," he said.