Friday, January 02, 2015

"On November 10, 1893, the Washington Post identified an emerging technology that was reshaping American society: Pneumatics!"

That's how Chief Justice Roberts starts his year end report.  He goes on to explain that his hope is that by the end of 2016, the Court will be more automated, having electronic filing and public access to court filings.  But the Chief has quite a lead in to get there.  The intro to his report continues:
The miracle of compressed air had led to the creation of new contraptions, including pneumatic tube systems that relied on air compressors to transport cylindrical containers hundreds of feet within buildings. Pneumatic tube systems had found favor in banks and department stores, enabling clerks to transmit documents rapidly from one office to another. Noting this and other applications of pneumatics, the Washington Post lightheartedly proclaimed, “The present era is likely to be known to history as the pneumatic age.” News of this dawning era was slow to reach the Supreme Court. It was not until 1931 that the Marshal of the Court proposed installing a pneumatic tube system in the Courtroom for the benefit of the press. Architect Cass Gilbert incorporated that technology into the design of the Court’s current building, concealing the gray metal tubes behind mahogany desks and beneath the marble floor. When the Court opened the doors of its new Courtroom in 1935, it also revised its procedure for issuing decisions. Under the new “hand- down” protocol, immediately before a Justice announced a decision in the Courtroom, the Clerk of the Court directed messengers to hand copies to a small group of journalists stationed in front of the bench. The journalists then dispatched the copies through the pneumatic tubes to their colleagues in the press booths one floor below, saving the messengers dozens of steps and precious minutes in communicating the news of Court actions. For thirty-six years, virtually all of the Court’s decisions reached the press through those portals. A notable exception was the Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Chief Justice Warren made a point of delaying delivery of his short opinion until he had read it in full in open Court. But not even things gray can stay, and the venerable steel hardware ultimately outlived its usefulness. In 1968, John P. MacKenzie, the Supreme Court reporter for the Washington Post, described the Court’s process of transmitting decisions as “perhaps the most primitive . . . in the entire communications industry.” The Court’s pneumatic age ended in 1971, when Chief Justice Burger authorized the removal of the pneumatic tube system at the same time that he introduced the Court’s familiar curved bench. The Washington Post’s celebration of the marvels of pneumatics, followed by the Supreme Court’s belated embrace and overdue abandonment of a pneumatic conveyance system, illustrates two tenets about technology and the courts, one obvious and the other less so. First, the ceaseless growth of knowledge in a free society produces novel and beneficial innovations that are nonetheless bound for obsolescence from the moment they launch. No one should be surprised that the same surge of creativity that pushed courts from quills to hot-metal type will inevitably propel them past laser printers and HTML files as new technologies continue to emerge. Second, and perhaps less evidently, the courts will often choose to be late to the harvest of American ingenuity. Courts are simply different in important respects when it comes to adopting technology, including information technology. While courts routinely consider evidence and issue decisions concerning the latest technological advances, they have proceeded cautiously when it comes to adopting new technologies in certain aspects of their own operations.
If you are working today and need more than the Chief Justice's 16-page report to get you through the day, you can hit up Judge Jordan's 150-plus order on a case he kept as a district judge regarding healthcare and  disabled children.  The Miami Herald summarizes the ruling here:
A federal judge Wednesday declared Florida’s healthcare system for needy and disabled children to be in violation of several federal laws, handing a stunning victory to doctors and children’s advocates who have fought for almost a decade to force the state to pay pediatricians enough money to ensure impoverished children can receive adequate care.In his 153-page ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan said lawmakers had for years set the state’s Medicaid budget at an artificially low level, causing pediatricians and other specialists for children to opt out of the insurance program for the needy. In some areas of the state, parents had to travel long distances to see specialists.The low spending plans, which forced Medicaid providers for needy children to be paid far below what private insurers would spend — and well below what doctors were paid in the Medicare program for a more powerful group, elders — amounted to rationing of care, the order said.“This is a great day for the children in this state,” said Dr. Louis B. St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatrician who is executive vice president of the Florida Pediatric Society and helped spearhead the suit. “This action was taken because we found that children weren’t being treated properly if they were on Medicaid. Our position as pediatricians,” he added, “is that children do not choose their parents. They don’t have a choice to be born into a rich family or a poor family.”
UPDATE -- Here is the order.  Thanks to a reader for sending it along.

The blog will be back Monday with regular posts.  Hope everyone had a nice holiday.  Happy new year!

Read more here:


Anonymous said...

Sounds like an important 153-page ruling by U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan. I would like to read the ruling, but neither the Miami Herald nor this blog provided any further information, such as:

case caption?
case number?
link to the 153 page ruling?

I’m going through all the cases on the Eleventh Circuit site, have not found it yet.

Anonymous said...

You need to read carefully. This was a district court order note an opinion from the 11th.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I stand corrected. Appreciate the information

computer said...

This year end report by Chief Justice Roberts somewhat ridiculous given the problems with our civil and criminal justice system. Completely missing is any discussion about the use of computers to replace judges.

Think about it. No more fist fights between a cranky judge and a public defender. No problem with judges drunk on the bench. All hearings done electronically online. No need for courthouses as they exist today. No need for bailiffs, screening hoards of people as they arrive for court proceedings. No need to transport defendants to court. Billions of dollars saved.

It would eliminate the adversarial system that costs more money and delivers less justice.

Elimination of the lawyer-judge bias in the American legal system.

What about open source legal aid? Like Wikipedia is built by many volunteers, individual cases could be put online for others to work on.

Perhaps the best part is the opening line in this 1977 review,

Can/Should Computers Replace Judges?
by Anthony D'Amato, 11 Georgia Law Review 1277-1301 (1977)

"The most important inquiry in jurisprudence has always seemed to me to be whether it is
possible to have the rule of law rather than the rule of persons."

more related links

Not on board? Okay, a justice auction. Parties meet before a judge, justice is auctioned, high bidder gets their judgment of choice. Actually, this is essentially the system we have now, except the process drags on for years or decades until one side goes broke or can’t-won’t pay anymore for lawyers, transcripts, research, experts, etc.