- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2000

Oyez, oyez, oyez. The Supreme Court finally logs onto the Internet next Monday, ending its long distinction as the only federal entity that was still nothing-dot-com.
The justices will be on line at supremecourtus.gov just one year after Justice Clarence Thomas revealed a home page was in the works, moving the court from the marshal's ancient "Oyez, oyez, oyez" cry that opens every session directly into the mouse-driven world of cyberspace.
While same-day access to full "slip opinions" and order lists will be provided at first via a link to the Government Printing Office (GPO), the court's official site will offer an archive of all judgments so far from the current term plus hearing schedules, official notices, court rules, lawyers' forms, and other information.
The database will continue to build and eventually, court information officer Kathy Arberg said yesterday, initial "bench opinions" also will be posted shortly after each is announced in open court and distributed to subscribers via the computerized Hermes system.
But there will be no public e-mail and still no voice mail in the fusty old chambers where every lawyer who argues a case receives a souvenir quill pen, handmade in Charlottesville, Va., and a real person answers the main number 24 hours a day.
The system will not replace paper, Mrs. Arberg said, or non-Internet electronic access to docket status files in the clerk's office through the electronic bulletin board system (BBS) available by computer (202/554-2570), or ordinary telephone (202/479-3034).
After the automated docket is put on line at an unspecified later date, direct computer BBS access will end, but voice phone will be maintained.
"The court will continue to publish and distribute its opinions in paper pamphlets and in the official United States Reports," she said referring to the constantly updated lawbook series that documents rulings that govern all lower U.S. courts.
Mrs. Arberg said the site was developed by government employees at the court and GPO. No images of the home page design were made public.
When Justice Thomas disclosed the planning during budget testimony to Congress last spring, he said the site would offer texts of legal briefs. Mrs. Arberg could not say yesterday when that goal might be met.
Presumably, when it does, the high court would require that most briefs be filed on computer disk as many lower courts already do.
"The rest of society moves more quickly, [but] we are getting there," Justice Thomas said when Rep. Dan Miller, Florida Republican, asked about electronic access during last year's House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the court budget.
"We're not as far along as we'd like to be… . We have the same security concerns other parts of the government have," Justice Thomas said during testimony that proved to be the court's only public comment on the issue of hackers who sabotaged several federal Web sites.
Hackers can temporarily change a Web site message or sabotage a home page just as they might splash paint on a billboard, but the high court system and most other federal Web sites are separated from official records or secret internal processes.
The court already is highly computerized, and most justices labor on their own keyboards within a kind of electronic moat that requires that all official communications arrive on paper.
The court will not charge for access to its site. A number of services market copies of opinions, some for a price, and law schools at Cornell and Northwestern universities maintain sophisticated but unofficial on-line information about the Supreme Court.
All 13 federal appeals courts and about 115 district and bankruptcy courts long ago opened extensive Web sites to which the administrative office home page provides links (www.uscourts.gov/allinks.html).

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