CHICAGO Ã¯Â¿Â½ The American Bar Association has launched a new Web site intended to inform the media and public of important cases in the nation's federal appellate courts.
The site was officially unveiled Nov. 18 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., where judges and journalists were gathered for a conference hosted by the First Amendment Center.
Media Alerts on Federal Courts of Appeals, as the site will be known, is sponsored by the ABA's Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements. It represents a collaborative effort to broadly disseminate timely, accurate and unbiased information about noteworthy and legally significant cases in the federal courts of appeals. The site will be updated daily with postings on key decisions and alerts on upcoming cases.
Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a founder of the project and immediate past chair of the Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements, said the site targets the media, but also will serve as a resource for lawyers, educators and the public.
"The case information not only serves a practical need, it also promotes transparency and public access, which go hand in hand with judicial accountability and judicial independence," McKeown said. "Greater access to and understanding of the judicial process fosters public confidence in our judicial system."
"There is nothing more important to our democracy and freedom than a well informed press and public," said U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas of the Southern District of Texas, chair of the standing committee. "The Media Alerts on Federal Courts of Appeals site should enhance the media's ability to help us achieve this goal."
Federal courts of appeals, which are at the level just below the United States Supreme Court, hear direct appeals from both federal trial courts and federal administrative agencies. Of the 11 geographically drawn circuits, the new Web site initially will highlight decisions from the Third, Fifth, and Ninth Circuits, then eventually expand to include the rest of the circuits.
In conjunction with the ABA, a panel of distinguished law professors, supported by their students, select and summarize cases. The ABA is working with professors at the law schools of Temple University (Craig Green and David Sonenshein), the University of Texas (Stephanie Lindquist and Dean Leslie Oster), the University of San Diego (Shaun Martin), and the University of Arizona (David Marcus).
The academic teams will be choosing from the more than 25,000 cases filed annually in the three courts of appeals. The project aims to select a manageable number of cases so that the site will be of practical use to reporters.
The project grew out of a shared concern between journalists and the judiciary that reporting about federal courts has been declining. The concern is due in part to new trends in media coverage, including the steadily shrinking pool of news staff in traditional media and the rise of Internet-based news sites, blogs, and other media outlets.
"For the past decade federal judges and journalists around the country have shared their perspectives and concerns through a series of meetings sponsored by the First Amendment Center," said U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby of the District of Maine, chair of the Judicial Branch Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which has cosponsored the programs. "This Web site is a real and tangible outgrowth of our meetings, and one that I think will bring greater public access and understanding to the work of the U.S. Courts of Appeals."
Following launch of the Web site, the standing committee will continue to explore opportunities for the exchange of views among judges and journalists. In 2010, the committee plans to sponsor a forum on media and the courts in conjunction with the William H. Rehnquist Center at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.
The Media Alerts Web site is at http://new.abanet.org/SCFJI/Pages/MediaAlertsOnFederalCircuitCourts.aspx.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.