The E-Government Act of 2002 required courts to make written opinions1 available to the public in a text searchable format by April 16, 2005. CM/ECF and PACER allow access to written opinions that were filed after that date free of charge.
Although there is no charge associated with written opinions, a PACER account is required for access. Public users will gain access to the CM/ECF system using their PACER account login and password; registered attorneys may login to CM/ECF with their e-filing login and password if they have already associated their PACER account information with their CM/ECF account information. After logging in to CM/ECF, there are two methods from which decisions designated as written opinions can be accessed:
First, click 'Reports' on the blue menu bar. To run a written opinions report, click on the 'Written Opinions' item on the resulting reports menu. The report contains criteria that can be set according to user needs (specific case number, date range, etc.). To run the report, click the Run Report button (to clear selections made, click the Clear button). If no criteria are selected and the report is run accepting the defaults, the resulting report will contain all Western District of Michigan written opinions filed within the last month. Note that if an order adopts a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the report and recommendation will be flagged and added to the written opinions report as well. Note that the filing date range entered by the user on the written report criteria will have to accommodate the filing date of the report and recommendation in order for it to be included in the resulting report.
Second, any decision designated as a written opinion that is accessed through the docket or through a query will not have a fee associated with it. It should be noted, however, that users will still be charged the PACER fee associated with running the docket report and/or query, however they will not be charged an additional fee for viewing the written opinion.
When a user clicks on a decision that has been flagged as a written opinion, the user will be presented with a message:
The document you requested is [#] pages. There is no charge for viewing opinions.
Click the 'View Document' button to view the document. The pdf document can be printed and/or saved to your local computer.
To login to CM/ECF/PACER and access Written Opinions, click here.
For PACER information, click here.
1The filing judge determines whether their decision is flagged in the system as a written opinion.