Two Things I Didn't Know... But Now I Do - PACER & CourtCall

It seems that I'm finding out lately that "the more I know... the more I know I don't know". Yesterday was a prime example of how I learned about two things that I probably should have know about well before yesterday.

New PACER "Look & Feel"

First up... PACER is launching a new "look and feel" for its website. You already knew this?? Well, I sure missed the memo on this change. I rechecked my RSS feeds, and sure enough... turns out that my buddy Joe Hodnicki over at the Law Librarian Blog tried to clue me in way back on April 30th! (That's like a year in "Internet Time"). One of the things that didn't make me feel too bad about missing this piece of information was the fact that almost everyone I talked to seemed to have missed it too. So, in case you also missed that little piece of information, you can go today and look at the preview of the new PACER site (http://pcl.uscourts.gov). You HAVE to go today to see the preview, because the new site launches tomorrow!!

Well have a review of the new PACER site early next week, but in the meantime, here's a brief overview of some of the new changes that come with the new "Look & Feel":
The Case Locator replaces the U.S. Party/Case Index and provides enhanced search and display capabilities including the ability to:
  - request lists of cases for a specified date range by court type;
  - conduct searches based on chapter, discharge date and dismissal date for bankruptcy cases;
  - access case information for the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation;
  -choose result formats, including HTML, delimited text, and XML which can be easily imported to other programs for analysis;
  - change the sort order of the results displayed; and
  -conduct refined searches within the results of a previous search.
CourtCall - The "Not Quite Virtual" Telephonic Court Appearance Resource

I kind of convinced myself that missing the PACER changes was forgivable... but, this next item seems to point to my being completely ignorant of a resource that has been around for over 15 years. I had someone call me asking if we had access to a product called "CourtCall". I responded quickly with "What the Heck is CourtCall??"  Which was my not-so-intelligent way of saying "I don't think we subscribe to that service." Well, I had to listen for five minutes while the person on the other end of the line raved about how this service allows you to schedule a telephone appearance with a court rather than having to drive or fly to make the appearance. This sounded eerily like a low-tech version of Lisa's virtual courts post from a couple of weeks ago. I jumped out on the web and started doing some quick research on the service and then immediately started kicking myself for not knowing about this years ago.

Here's a brief overview of the product from CourtCall's website:
CourtCall created the turn-key telephonic court appearance system that has become the industry standard. Our mission is to educate Judges, court staff, lawyers, and clients about the time and money saving advantages of CourtCall Appearances and provide such services with innovation, diligence, and courtesy.
The CourtCall Telephonic Appearance Program is an organized and voluntary way for lawyers to telephonically make routine civil, criminal, probate, bankruptcy and other appearances from their offices, homes or other convenient locations at no cost to the Court. Unlike common practices, neither Court staff nor lawyers are required to coordinate the time or logistics of the call. Instead, by simply paying a reasonable fixed fee and filing with CourtCall the Request for CourtCall Appearance form in advance, a lawyer may make a CourtCall Appearance.
I haven't used this before, but the amount of coverage that CourtCall has looks to be amazing! Here's a PDF list of the courts and judges that participate. I did do a quick check of some other blogs to see what the reviews are, and most were positive, with one posted yesterday by Cheryl Meril being a little more hesitant on giving a stamp of approval to CourtCall, but mostly on the idea that the calls are impersonal, and could cause issues of missing important visual clues that only come from actually being in the courtroom. I also found it a little interesting that CourtCall has a revenue sharing program (PDF of press release) with the courts. Perhaps I'm being a little oversensitive, but courts, private business and revenue sharing tend to raise red flags (even if everything is on the up-and-up.)

If you've ever used CourtCall, give me some comments of what you think about it. I'm wondering how long it could be before Lisa's virtual courtroom could become a reality. If courts are willing to do telephone appearances, then it seems logical that with access to video communication over VoIP lines should be the next step in CourtCall's future.

So there's the two things I learned yesterday. I'm sure there are a bazillion other things I should know about, so I'll keep my ears open, my RSS feed flowing, my Twitter account active, and my listserv reading up-to-date in order to learn more of what I should have already known.

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Chris said...

We in CA have been happily using CourtCall for years and it's great. I agree with you re visual cues being important, but you can always appear in person if you want. CourtCall is great (fantastic) for routine appearances such as Case Management Conferences, further CMCs, status conferences, trial setting conferences and anything else you want. It saves the client money, too, as no more travel time. Try it, you'll love it.

Anonymous said...

The service from www.tele-court.com is even better. It's live courtroom connection shows who is scheduled to dial in, who is connected, even speaking, in real time. Also has free web video. CourtCall costs $50-$100. Tele-Court is just $25. Not available in as many places, but some large courts like Miami, Palm Beach, San Diego federal, etc.


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