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H.R. 8235: Open Courts Act of 2020


The text of the bill below is as of Sep 14, 2020 (Introduced).


I

116th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 8235

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

September 14, 2020

(for himself and Mr. Collins of Georgia) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

A BILL

To provide for the modernization of electronic case management systems, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Open Courts Act of 2020.

2.

Modernization of electronic court records systems

(a)

Consolidation

Not later than the date specified in subsection (e), the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, in coordination with the Administrator of General Services, shall establish, maintain, and operate, consistent with the requirements of this section and section 3, one system for all public court records.

(b)

Requirements of system

The system developed under subsection (a) shall comply with the following requirements:

(1)

The system shall provide search functions, developed in coordination with the Administrator of General Services, for use by the public and by parties before the court.

(2)

Any information that is prohibited from public disclosure by law or court order shall be redacted.

(3)

Any information made available through a website established pursuant to section 205 of the E–Government Act of 2002 shall be included in the system.

(4)

Any website for the system shall substantially comply with the requirements under subsections (b) and (c) of section 205 of the E–Government Act of 2002.

(5)

To the extent practicable, external websites shall be able to link to documents on the system. Each website established pursuant to section 205 of the E–Government Act of 2002 shall contain a link to the system.

(c)

Data standards

(1)

Establishment of data standards

The Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, in coordination with the Administrator of General Services and the Archivist of the United States, shall establish data standards for the system established under subsection (a).

(2)

Requirements

The data standards established under paragraph (1) shall, to the extent reasonable and practicable—

(A)

incorporate widely accepted common data elements;

(B)

incorporate a widely accepted, nonproprietary, full text searchable, platform-independent computer-readable format; and

(C)

be capable of being continually upgraded as necessary.

(3)

Deadlines

Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts shall issue guidance to all Federal courts on the data standards established under this section.

(d)

Use of technology

In developing the system under subsection (a), the Director shall use modern technology in order—

(1)

to improve security, data accessibility, affordability, and performance; and

(2)

to minimize the burden on pro se litigants.

(e)

Date specified

The date specified in this subsection is the date that is 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, unless the Administrator of General Services certifies to Congress, by not later than 90 days after such date of enactment, that an additional period of time is required. If the Administrator so certifies, the date specified in this subsection is the date that is 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act.

(f)

Funds for establishment, operation, and maintenance of modernized court records system

(1)

Short term access fees to fund establishment of modernized court records system

(A)

In general

Section 303 of the Judiciary Appropriations Act, 1992 (title III of Public Law 102–140; 105 Stat. 807) (28 U.S.C. 1913 note) is amended—

(i)

in subsection (a), by inserting The Judicial Conference shall prescribe a schedule of additional fees for any person who accrues such fees for access in an amount of $25,000 or greater in any quarter. All fees collected shall be deposited as offsetting collections to the Judiciary Information Technology Fund pursuant to section 612(c)(1)(A) of title 28, United States Code, to reimburse expenses incurred in carrying out section 2 of the Open Courts Act of 2020. before The Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts; and

(ii)

in subsection (b), by striking All fees hereafter and inserting Except as otherwise provided in this section, all fees hereafter.

(B)

Excess fees

Amounts deposited in the Judiciary Information Technology Fund pursuant to the amendments made by subparagraph (A) and not used to reimburse expenses incurred in carrying out section 2 of this Act may be used pursuant to section 612(a) of title 28, United States Code.

(C)

Effective date

The amendment made by subparagraph (A) shall take effect on the date of enactment of this Act.

(2)

Filing fees to fund operation and maintenance of modernized court records system

(A)

In general

Section 303 of the Judiciary Appropriations Act, 1992 (title III of Public Law 102–140; 105 Stat. 807) (28 U.S.C. 1913 note) is amended by striking subsections (a) and (b), and inserting the following:

(a)

To cover the costs of carrying out section 2 of the Open Courts Act of 2020, the Judicial Conference may, only to the extent necessary—

(1)

prescribe reasonable filing fees, pursuant to sections 1913, 1914, 1926, 1930, and 1932 of title 28, United States Code, for collection by the courts under those sections, which—

(A)

shall be based on the extent of the use by the person filing of the system established under such section 2 for purposes of such action;

(B)

shall in addition be adjusted based on factors including the nature of the action and claim for relief, the amount of damages demanded, the estimated complexity of the type of action, and the interests of justice;

(C)

may be prescribed for the filing of a counterclaim; and

(D)

shall not apply in the case of a pro se litigant or litigant who certifies their financial hardship; and

(2)

prescribe a reasonable fee for the filing of a proof of claim or interest under Rule 3002 and Rule 3003 of the Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, which may be adjusted proportionately to the amount of the claim, the status of the claim, and the type of proceeding in which the claim is filed, and interests of justice.

(b)

The Judicial Conference and the Director shall transmit each schedule of fees prescribed under subsection (a) to Congress at least 90 days before the schedule becomes effective. All fees collected under subsection (a) shall be deposited as offsetting collections to the Judiciary Information Technology Fund pursuant to section 612(c)(1)(A) of title 28, United States Code, to reimburse expenses incurred in carrying out section 2 of the Open Courts Act of 2020.

(c)

The Judicial Conference shall review a schedule of fees prescribed under subsection (a) three years after it becomes effective and every three years thereafter to ensure that the fees meet the requirements of this section. If the fees do not meet the requirements of this section, the Judicial Conference shall prescribe a new schedule of fees pursuant to subsection (a) and submit the new schedule of fees to Congress pursuant to subsection (b).

(d)

Amounts deposited to the Judiciary Information Technology Fund pursuant to this section and not used to reimburse expenses incurred in carrying out section 2 of the Open Courts Act of 2020 may be used pursuant to section 612(a) of title 28, United States Code.

.

(B)

Effective date

The amendment made by subparagraph (A) shall take effect on the date specified in subsection (e).

3.

Public access to electronic court records system requirement

(a)

In general

Not later than the date specified in subsection (d), the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, in coordination with the Administrator of General Services, shall make all materials in the system established under section 2 publicly accessible, free of charge.

(b)

Authority for short term delays of public access to certain records

The Judicial Conference, after appropriate public notice and opportunity for comment, may designate categories of records which are not automatically made publicly accessible under subsection (a). Any such category shall be no broader than necessary, based on a determination of a specific and substantial interest in restricting the public right of access to court records, and subject to no more than a 5-day delay before being made publicly accessible under subsection (a). Any such designation shall expire after 3 years unless renewed pursuant to the requirements of this subsection.

(c)

Use of technology

In providing public access under subsection (a), the Director shall, in coordination with the Administrator of General Services, use modern technology in order—

(1)

to improve security, data accessibility, ease of public access, affordability, and performance; and

(2)

to minimize the burden on pro se litigants.

(d)

Date specified

The date specified in this subsection is the date that is 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, unless the Administrator of General Services certifies to Congress, by not later than 90 days after such date of enactment, that an additional period of time is required. If the Administrator so certifies, the date specified in this subsection is the date that is 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act.

(e)

Funding for public access to modernized electronic court records system

(1)

In general

Section 303 of the Judiciary Appropriations Act, 1992 (title III of Public Law 102–140; 105 Stat. 807) (28 U.S.C. 1913 note) is amended by adding at the end the following:

(c)
(1)

To cover the costs of ensuring the public accessibility, free of charge, of all materials in the system established under section 2 of the Open Courts Act of 2020 in accordance with section 3 of such Act, the Judicial Conference shall collect an annual fee from the Department of Justice equal to the Public Access to Court Electronic Records access fees paid by the Department of Justice in 2018, as adjusted for inflation. All fees collected under this subsection shall be deposited as offsetting collections to the Judiciary Information Technology Fund pursuant to section 612(c)(1)(A) of title 28, United States Code, to reimburse expenses incurred in providing services in accordance with section 3 of the Open Courts Act of 2020.

(2)

To cover any additional marginal costs of ensuring the public accessibility, free of charge, of all materials in the system established under section 2 of the Open Courts Act of 2020 in accordance with section 3 of such Act, the Judicial Conference may prescribe reasonable filing fees, pursuant to sections 1913, 1914, 1926, 1930, and 1932 of title 28, United States Code, for collection by the courts under those sections. The filing fees—

(A)

shall be based on the extent of the use by the person filing of the system established under such section 2 for purposes of such action;

(B)

shall be adjusted based on factors including the nature of the action and claim for relief, the amount of damages demanded, the estimated complexity of the type of action, and the interests of justice;

(C)

may be prescribed for the filing of a counterclaim; and

(D)

shall not apply to a pro se litigant or a litigant who certifies their financial hardship.

(3)
(A)

The Judicial Conference and the Director shall transmit each schedule of fees prescribed under this subsection to Congress at least 90 days before the schedule becomes effective. All fees collected under this subsection shall be deposited as offsetting collections to the Judiciary Information Technology Fund pursuant to section 612(c)(1)(A) of title 28, United States Code, to reimburse expenses incurred in providing services in accordance with section 3 of the Open Courts Act of 2020.

(B)

The Judicial Conference shall review a schedule of fees prescribed under this paragraph three years after it becomes effective and every three years thereafter to ensure that the fees meet the requirements of this paragraph. If the fees do not meet the requirements of this paragraph, the Judicial Conference shall prescribe a new schedule of fees pursuant to this paragraph and submit the new schedule of fees to Congress pursuant to subparagraph (A).

(C)

Amounts deposited to the Judiciary Information Technology Fund pursuant to this subsection and not used to reimburse expenses incurred in carrying out section 3 of the Open Courts Act of 2020 may be used to reimburse expenses incurred in carrying out section 2 of the Open Courts Act of 2020. Amounts not used to reimburse expenses incurred in carrying out section 2 of the Open Courts Act of 2020 may be used pursuant to section 612(a) of title 28, United States Code.

.

(2)

Effective date

The amendment made by paragraph (1) shall take effect beginning on the date specified in subsection (d).

4.

Rule of construction

Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to—

(1)

affect the filing fees or other filing procedures for prisoners; or

(2)

abrogate, limit, or modify the requirements described in section 1915 of title 28, United States Code.

5.

Digital accessibility standards

The systems established under sections 2 and 3 of this Act or the amendments made by such sections shall comply with relevant digital accessibility standards established pursuant to section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.