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January 01, 2007



S Cotus, I totally agree. You've got my vote. Without LEXIS or WESTLAW, there is no real good way to do legal research, no matter what people say. And it does not give equality of opportunity in the Courts to have a two-tiered legal research system. this lack of equal access violates the Americans With Disabilities Act for disabled people who use assistive technologies from their laptops outside the physical court buildings. While I am at it, CM/ECF electronic filing needs to be provided to all litigants, not just attorneys, another disability access issue, and both CM/ECF and PACEr needs to be without charge to ensure assistive technology disability access. The State Courts also need to get with the paperless electronic filing system, and allow all dockets/ pleadings on teh dockets to be seen via the internet. This is a really big due process/equal protection issue.


Some state courts do have public electronic dockets.

I think the ADA issue is somewhat separate. I am not 100% whether the ADA applies to court dockets or not (it does apply to court buildings, which are rented to them at high prices by the GSA). Whatever the case, this seems like a great idea for a lawsuit.

For what its worth, ECF (the "CM" is for the chambers side) for pro ses has been discussed at some courts, but most people thought that pro ses would just screw up the dockets by not knowing what they are doing… which is strange, because some lawyers seem to take pride in not knowing how to use a computer. (They are lying, but it is considered a badge of honor to be technically illiterate.)


Thanks S. Cotus. Neither California nor Florida have statewide public dockets like the federal system. Both states make a person physically go to the courthouse to access dockets in most instances. The voicemail systems of most Califonria courts are so incomprehensible and unnavigable by a disabled person, they are no help. Even when you can get an electronic docket listing of the pleadings filed over the internet in these two states, it is on a courthouse-by-courthouse basis, and you still cannot see the actual pleading content.

Actually, the ADA issue is not separate. Title II of the ADA applies to everything a state court does, and they are required to provide reasonable accommodations, auxiliaty aids and services, devices, reasonable modifications of law, rules, policies, practices, and procedures, and remove architectural, transportation, and communication barriers. In Florida, the legislature made effective July 1, 2006, Florida Statutes, 282.601-282.605, adopting Sec. 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and applying such electronic access to all three branches of Florida's government, including the Courts. But all of this seems to be completely lost on the courts.

You raise a very interesting issue regarding the federal courts and the GSA. I was informed by a Harvard LLM-Stetson law prof that there is some federal regulation (I am still trying to find) that applies Title II of the ADA to all the federal courts. He did not have the cite. The applicability of Title II of the ADA to the federal courts was confirmed to me by a senior clerk of the U.S. Eleventh Circut Court of Appeals, wo told me "we're fully compliant with the ADA." One would think Title II of the ADA would estend to the federal courts through the Necessary and Proper Clause, as well.

Sec. 504 & 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 applies to federal executive agencies and recipients of federal financial aid (the latter is a complex analysis), but is would not seem to apply to the federal courts except for components that are recipients of federal financial assistance. (e.g., US Trustee's Office, AOC, CM/ECF system?).

However, as fine a web site as it is, the United States Supreme Courts web site and filing procedures are extremely archiaic and inaccessible to disabled assistive technology device users. when I complained about it to a Supreme Court clerk, I was told to contact the GSA, federal agency that maintains the Supreme Court's web site. Clearly the GSA is subject to Secs. 504 & 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. When I mentioned that, all my petitions for cert at the time immediately got denied.

Where does this leave a disabled assistive technology users who requires a seamless paperless electronic internet/web site/docket-filing system to access any number of courts? I don't have the answer, since simply to ask for access is to make judicial officers and court staff hostile -- maybe this is human nature to resist change and tings that seem unfamiliar? Disabled people are not trying to make courts anrgy with them, only just trying to get the access they need. I wish i knew how to convince those with the power to bring about this change. Beyond a good advance that wold help the disabled, it would benefit nondisabled people as well, and reduce the cost of operating the courts and of lawsuits for attorneys' clients.

I understand how judicial officers and court officials in charge of the CM/ECF system would think pro ses would just mess everything up. anyone who has been in bankruptcy courts has seen a lot of this, since a lot of pro ses try to do their own BKs. Being a disabled assistive technology device user, however, I have a little better than average knowledge of computer technology, so with the little CM/ECF class taught by the district court clerks, I was able to easily grasp the technology. I was pro se, but a federal judge authorized me to have CM/ECf access to accommodate my disabilities. I think the problems could be managed by giving the CM/ECF access to (1) attorneys, (1) law profs, (3) court staff, (4) bar applicants, and (5) all disabled assistive technology device users. This is a very capable group and already highly computer literate.

It is all just food for thought.


Well, if you have specific regulations, then post them. Unfortunately, many professors are not as aware of the “practical” side of the law as they think they are. So, they say dumb things.

Most courts are “voluntarily” compliant with the ADA (in addition to stuff that GSA does for them), but this doesn’t mean that they are actually bound by it, and rights are enforceable. I don’t know.

The problem that courts see with letting pro ses have direct access to ECF is that filings go directly to the docket, and non-lawyers don’t understand the significance of various options.

Anyway, I wish you good luck. However, I would advice some caution before proceeding legally. It seems that you have been on the losing end of various court battles, so you might want to align with people with a long track record of winning these fights. I am sure that there are many disability-rights advocates that are up to speed on litigation in these areas.

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