Supreme Court rounds up Web site

One more most-wanted site has caught up with the World Wide Web, as the staid old U.S. Supreme Court goes online today.

An official Supreme Court site had been No. 2 on the Center for Democracy and Technology's 10 Most Wanted Government Documents site. Before today, electronic court information had been made available via subscription services, simpler technology and unofficial sites, including extensive ones run by Cornell University and Northwestern University.

The court appears to be centralizing information it had in other, less widely available electronic forms, according to Peter Martin, a law professor at Cornell and co-director of the school's Legal Information Institute.

Cornell has used raw data from the court's Project Hermes subscription service to create a user-friendly Web site with a search engine and hyperlinks to past court decisions.

It remains to be seen is how user-friendly the court's site will be, Martin said.

The site (www.supremecourtus.gov) will link to the court's first-draft opinions, so-called bench opinions, as they are posted on the Government Printing Office's GPO Access site within minutes of being made. This offers the public the same service that the court has offered via subscription to agencies, educators, legal publishers and news agencies through Project Hermes, which was set up 1991.

Final, or slip, versions of opinions, will be published on the court's own Web site when they are issued, a court spokeswoman said.

The site also will feature:

    * Current term orders - a listing of all cases it will hear, deny or those now pending.

    * An argument calendar.

    * Schedules.

    * Rules.

    * Bar admission forms and instructions.

    * Visitors' guides.

    * Case-handling guides.

    * Special notices.

    * Press releases.

With the new Web site up and running, the Supreme Court will phase out a public dial-up bulletin board system it established in 1996. But it will retain the Hermes system and an automated telephone system set up in 1997 that provides callers with updates of cases.

The court also will continue to publish its opinions in pamphlet form and in the official United States Reports.

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