One fun part about starting up the blog and focusing so much attention on the federal district courts has been spending time at the four New York district court websites. It is amazing to me how different each one is.
All federal practitioners should visit each website frequently (depending upon which districts they practice in, obviously). I would suggest maybe once every couple of weeks. The courts often post notices to bar, for which all attorneys should be aware. For example, currently, the Southern and Eastern Districts have a notice for comments to the proposed changes to the local rules. The comment period ends on December 1.
Outside of the notices, the websites offer what you would expect: PACER, CM/ECF, forms, info about the judges, attorney information, etc.
But each one offers other interesting stuff. At least for a junkie like me, they were interesting.
Here is a quick review of what you can find at each:
This is my favorite of the four. It definitely has the most informal appearance. Currently, it features this picture of a carved pumpkin:
A nice Halloween touch.
It is very user friendly with picture links (in case I am not using the right terminology, I mean that you can click on pictures in order to get to different areas of the website).
Some fun parts of the site are: (1) the court's history, which begins (and I am not joking) with a reference to the "Pleistocene Epoch of the quaternary period of earth history"; (2) a map of the Northern District; and (3) an aesthetically pleasing "Upcoming Events" link.
The Western District has the most informative front page. Featured prominently on the front page is information such as when the district was created and the architectural intricacies of the court houses. The front page also provides critical information to non-lawyers about fraudulent phone calls about jury duty. I guess the callers seek confidential information in order to commit identity theft. This warning has been up for awhile (since 2005!), so I guess it is an ongoing issue.
Unfortunately, there are not as many trivia-related items as what appears at the Northern District site. The most "fun" stuff can be found under the Education Resources page, which provides several links to information about the federal courts, mostly provided by the Federal Judicial Center.
This one is definitely the oddest visually of the four. I like the color scheme, particularly how the blue button links switch to teal when you scroll over them. But the artwork at the top is best described as weird. In the upper left hand corner there's this:
I guess it is a judge sitting on the bench, but it's kind of a scary image in my mind. Like a judicial apparition of some kind.
Then, in the upper right hand corner, there's this:
But, since I admire the Eastern District's clerk's office, I'll let the images slide. The website offers some great stuff. First, a link on the website gets you to this cool, easy-to-read table about relevant time computations under the new rules. Second, I really like this link to a speech by Judge Weinstein to law clerks. The speech is a really interesting discussion about how lawyers and judges make law. But what I really appreciate about the link is the respect that it shows for one of the judges of the court.
I also really liked the information about the court at the bottom of the front page. But I do have some complaints. First, you have to scroll way down to get it. Although I am not much at website design, that's bad webpage planning in my book. Second, the information is in a microscopic font. It's terribly hard to read.
Finally, I also really like the website's "Help Desk." That's a nice addition.
Last but not least, the Southern District. It is definitely the most button-downed website of the four. It's got a nice banner at the top, with the fading pillars. There is also a great Notice to the Bar section, with rotating announcements. But other than that, there are not many adornments here. The website clearly takes its role very seriously.
But there is some interesting stuff. The frontpage has some information about the court, including some cool historical info (namely that it was carved out of the first federal judicial district ever in existence). And, speaking of history, it has a really great pdf about the history of the Southern District. It rivals the Northern District's history link, even if it doesn't go back one and a half million years. But I am guessing that Duane Street downtown, must be named after the Judge James Duane mentioned in the document. So the proliferation of Duane Reades in New York are distantly linked to the history of the Southern District. Who would have guessed that?
The site also has some unique and helpful info on the front page, such as decisions of interest and a box with a link to the mostly amended individual practices.
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In the near future, I intend to create a page with these links. Or maybe I'll just make this a new page. I also want to put up a list of all of the judges for each district as well as the Circuit. I'll include the abbreviations, so that the judicial abbreviations in the Weekly Reviews can be deciphered quickly.