Like it or not, the world is becoming paperless. Email killed snail-mail years ago, e-books are slowly eroding the demand for paperbacks (though the ridiculously high prices of e-books are slowing that change), and like it or not, court opinions are moving wholly online as well.
Yep, the courts are catching up to WestLaw. After all, who uses hardback reporters anyway? My volumes of Supreme Court Lawyers' Edition are about 15 years out-of-date and only exist to make me look smart (and compliment my office motif).
As part of its effort to catch up with the times, the Fourth Circuit is amending Rule 36(b) and will no longer distribute paper copies of published opinions in slip opinion format to everyone who requests them. Previously, judges, clerks, U.S. Attorneys, and federal public defenders could request copies of published opinions for free and others could pay for a subscription.
Now, opinions -- published or unpublished -- are sent only to the parties, counsel, and court in the actual case. Everyone else can access opinions for free by going to www.ca4.uscourts.gov. You can also subscribe to opinions by email or by RSS. It's paperless, it's free, and it saves trees. It likely also reduces the courts' costs.
You should also read this blog. We cover all the good stuff. It's easier than reading through every single 50-page opinion. Trust us - we've been there.
The other announced rule change, a revision of Local Rule 46(c), is far less notable. It corrects the reference to printed opinions and changes "designation of counsel" to "appearance of counsel" to reflect the current form name.
The rule change takes effect on June 1, 2013. If you'd like to comment on the change, you may do so before May 15, 2013 by sending a paper letter to:
Patricia S. Connor, Clerk
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
1100 E. Main Street, Suite 501
Richmond, Virginia 23219
How about you, dear readers? Are you miffed at the reduction of printed paper opinions? Were you unaware of the service in the first place? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, which is far easier, albeit less effective, than mailing a letter to Ms. Connor.