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Eleventh Circuit Lags Behind Sister Circuits in Transparency

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 09, 2011 3:05 PM

Law Geek Alert: If you’re like us, you plan all of your vacations around important hearing dates in the federal appellate courts. The U.S. Courts websites for each circuit make such planning easy, unless you want to attend oral arguments in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. That’s because the Eleventh Circuit is the only circuit that does not publish its calendar on its website.

Want to attend hearings in the challenge to the Alabama immigration law, or the Georgia ban on handguns in church? You have to call or go to the Eleventh Circuit clerk’s office during business hours to get details. Some court watchers say that kind of opacity has no place in the justice system.

"It's a public federal agency, and it should be transparent to the extent it can be. It's information that's valuable to people who are interested in the court," said Georgia State University law professor Anne Emanuel to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Once you spend time navigating the federal appellate websites, you know that appellate courts do not excel in web design. With the exception of the comparatively-slick Federal Circuit Court of Appeals website, most of the circuits look like they launched websites around the turn of the century, and haven't added new features since then.

The Fourth, Fifth, and Eleventh Circuits are particularly outdated, but the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals' website is missing information, like the argument calendar and argument recordings, that other circuits include on their websites.

So what is the Eleventh Circuit doing to catch up with its sister circuits? Circuit Clerk John Ley indicated that the court might consider publishing its calendar if the public expressed interest in it, and the circuit judges recently voted to sell CDs of oral arguments.

So for all law geeks and regular citizens with an interest in the rule of law, until the Eleventh Circuit catches up with the times, you can contact the Clerk's office for the oral argument schedule from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm EST, Monday through Friday, at (404) 335-6100.

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