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Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Courts And Technology

The California Courts Web site reports the following about technology in the state's court system:
  • Courts allowing fax filing: All
  • Courts allowing some e-filing: Six
  • Number of county courts with local Web sites: All
  • Number of outmoded computers to be replaced in trial courts (2001-02): 6,700
  • Yesterday, the L.A. County Bar's Appellate Courts Committee hosted a presentation from two lawyers with the state Supreme Court: Greg Wolff, who is Head of Chambers for Justice Moreno (and used to be on Chief Justice George's staff) and David Nyssen, from the Court's central criminal staff. Earlier this year, the Court added its docket to the statewide Appellate Case Information system, so we can now track the status of any pending matter, as well as the issues that led the Court to grant review (see the Court's weekly summaries). It also was clear from yesterday's discussion that the Court's internal workings are getting a boost from technology. While the talk centered primarily on what it takes to get the Court to accept a case (consider this: over nine thousand petitions for review are submitted each year, while just over one hundred are granted) there were several between-the-lines insights about how the Court does its work. For instance, it sounds like the Justices and their staff primarily are authoring their opinions at the word processor (using Word). They also are set up to track at least the last ten year's worth of filings and dispositions, by issue. In other words, the Court knows at a glance when a petition for review is filed (1) who else has asked the Court to look at the issue, (2) in what context, (3) when, (4) what amicus groups representing various interests have had to say about the Court taking the issue, and (5) what, if anything, the Court has done about the issue to date. I found this, needless to say, fascinating, and saw little reason why the bare bones of this issue-oriented, historical approach to the Court's workload could not also be made available through its Web site. Providing access to this information would improve the quality of petitions for review, and help litigants better assess their chances of getting the Court's attention.

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