ILNews

Online opinions access hits a snag

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Court-watchers looking online to view Indiana's appellate decisions have been denied two days of opinions because those published rulings were not posted online.

A set of three dozen opinions came down Tuesday and Wednesday, but a change last month in how access is provided to those daily rulings meant that only online viewers, those directly involved in a decided case, or those who've traveled to the Indiana Statehouse to inspect opinions knew that any rulings had been released.

By noon today, a list of opinions provided to Indiana Lawyer showed one Supreme Court decision and eight for-publication rulings from the Court of Appeals coming down both days. The problem hadn't been fixed, and it isn't clear when opinions will start reappearing online.

"We regret this is happening, but it's a hazard of technology," said Indiana Supreme Court Administrator and Appellate Clerk Kevin Smith. "You'll have to do what you did before the Internet: travel to Indianapolis to look at them."

According to webmaster Lindsey Borschel, the problem is not within the appellate clerk's office but with the state service provider, Indiana Interactive. Staff tried to post yesterday's opinions, but the system crashed and they weren't input online. Borschel didn't know what caused the problem and hadn't received a response after alerting that provider to the problem.

This service provider system has been in place for years, and Borschel said she didn't recall anything like this happening before. At least one attorney had called the clerk's office after receiving notice an opinion was filed but wasn't able to see it online, Smith said.

In early December, the appellate clerk's office went paperless in the daily posting of opinions and orders to save money and be more environmentally friendly. The Internet became the main method for getting a look at any opinions, orders, and decisions from Indiana's appellate courts, although the public could still travel to clerk's office in downtown Indianapolis to view those documents. Anyone wanting to take copies or receive a fax would have to pay a fee per page.

The courtesy copies traditionally provided to Indiana Lawyer and other media outlets free of charge were eliminated, meaning that only those Web postings showed what was handed down each day.

At the time, Smith said the hope was to reduce paper consumption by about 176,000 double-sided sheets a year.

This is the second glitch that's hampered the online public access of opinions since the change, with the first happening Jan. 3. After starting a procedure to attach an electronic timestamp graphic on each opinion that shows date and time, the first Court of Appeals opinions of 2008 were password protected and locked so that people accessing the online opinions were unable to print them. That problem was an internal, unintended glitch resolved the same day.

"We're sort of at the mercy right now of our service provider," Smith said. "We are working diligently to do what we can to get the problem fixed."

This afternoon the clerk's office posted a notice online about the technical difficulties.

Opinions for the appellate courts are available online at www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions, while disciplinary and other orders can be found at www.in.gov/judiciary/orders. Separately, the day's opinions are also included on the Indiana Lawyer Web site each afternoon and included in Indiana Lawyer Daily.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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