According to a news release from the U.S. Courts, "The federal courts may be open during the government shutdown, but it’s far from “business as usual.” According to a Department of Justice memo(pdf), U.S. Attorneys across the country have been directed to “curtail or postpone” civil litigation “to the extent that this can be done without compromising . . . the safety of human life or the protection of property.” Criminal litigation will continue without interruption....The difficulties aren’t exclusively DOJ’s. Employees throughout the federal government have been furloughed and are prohibited from working during a shutdown. If they are involved in Federal court civil litigation, they are seeking stays until they’re able to work again."
N.D. Ohio Chief Judge Solomon Oliver and 86 other federal district court chief judges have signed and sent a joint letter to Congress requesting financial assistance. Analogizing themselves to "the boots on the ground in our nation's federal trial courts," the judges claim that reduced funding and sequestration have forced them to "slash ... operations to the bone." The judges fear that their "constitutional duties, public safety, and the quality of the justice system will be profoundly compromised by any further cuts."
According to the Clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, a jury scam is making its way around the US. Threatening homeowners with prosecution for failing to appear for state or federal jury service, callers are trying to coerce people into revealing sensitive information like social security numbers and credit card numbers. The ND of Ohio has confirmed that "Federal courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information in a telephone call. Most contact between a federal court and a prospective juror will be through the U.S. Mail." Apparently, the scams are surfacing in New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
A relatively new web-based service called Casetext offers lawyers the chance to comment on and annotate case law. Currently, lawyers can editorialize about U.S. Supreme Court cases, federal Circuit cases in F.2d and F.3d., federal district court cases in F.Supp. and F.Supp.2d from 1980 forward, and selected Delaware cases. Ways to contribute include:
Adding analysis of a document or of a paragraph within a document
Adding a link to an article you wrote or another related resource
Helping organize documents (by adding tags) or related cases (by categorizing them)
Any content lawyers add is freely usable by anyone else.
As part of a pilot program of the federal Judiciary, seven (7) civil cases from the Northern District of Ohio were videotaped. The proceedings are now available for public viewing online in slices that include case summaries, the entire trials, and individual parts of the proceedings. According to a press release, the courts taped the trials themselves, and the judges and parties had to all agree.
A full list of all the cases that were recorded, including those from Ohio, can be found at the following link, which also provides online access to the videos.
According to the December issue of the ABA Journal, the federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has passed the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as the court most reversed by the United States Supreme Court. Since the Fall of 2005, the 6th Circuit has apparently been reversed 31 of 38 times, or 81.6% of the time. The 9th Circuit runs a close second with a reversal rate of 100 of 128 cases, or 78.1%. The reversal rate for the 6th Circuit's 2011-2012 term was 5 of 5, and the article says that habeas cases have been a big issue for the 6th Circuit over the years. Unfortunately, the 6th Circuit judges did not respond to an interview request by the deadline for the ABA Journal article.
The Judicial Conference of the United States has recently decided to expand its current program of providing free, public access to opinions of federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. Although 29 selected courts' opinions have already been posted to the FDsys site, the project will soon be implemented nationally and provide access to all federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts' opinions. For local federal court practitioners, the FDsys site already contains opinions from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio from 2002-2012, as well as the years 1975, 1977 and 1983. One important caveat is that the collection of cases is not complete prior to 2004. However, the web site points out a good benefit: "[o]nce an opinion is located, all associated opinions within the same case can be accessed from the opinion More Information page."
Th Cleveland Law Library's Board Vice-President Carla Tricarichi has won a $14.7 million dollar victory for railroad workers in a federal court case that took 43 years to wind its way through the system. As a Plain Dealer article explains, the suit, which may be one of the oldest ones in the country, was brought by the workers for seniority, pay and health-care benefits they claimed they lost when Pennsylvania Railroad merged with New York Central Railroad. According to the article, many of the workers are now deceased so there are a number of estates that will receive the proceeds if the judgment is ever paid and not appealed. Although the case started out in Cleveland under former Judge Thomas Lambros, it was moved to Philadelphia, where the judge rendered the $14.7 million decision against the underwriter for the defunct Penn Central.
In a recent news release, the U.S. Courts' system has announced the creation of a proposed, new, model jury instruction on the use of social media during trials in federal court. A Judicial Conference Committee created the proposed instruction in an attempt to curb jury misuse of social media tools to research cases and communicate about them while the cases are pending. The instruction not only contains guidelines on instructing the jury before, during, and at the end of trial, but it also addresses violations and the consequences jurors can face.