Where to Go to Be in the Know Court Web Sites
Practitioners often have a difficult time keeping up with changes in the local rules and procedures of the court and clerk's office or sometimes just finding out what the rules and procedures are. This situation is made more complex for those practitioners practicing in more than one district. To remedy this situation and to better communicate with the bar and the public, most bankruptcy courts now have their own web sites. While these web sites differ in the amount of information provided and the use of graphics, the practitioner should be able to obtain everything he or she needs to know to practice before a particular court.
The easiest way to access a court's web site if you do not know the address is to first go to the Federal Judiciary's web site at http://www.uscourts.gov. Once there, click on court links; a map of the United States will appear. Click on the number of the circuit in which the court you are interested in is located. A list of all the circuit, district and bankruptcy courts that have web sites in that circuit will appear. Simply click on the court site you wish to visit, and its home page will be displayed. Once you are there, you can bookmark it for future reference. A more direct way to get to the site is to use the state abbreviation, followed by an "n," "s," "e" or "w" if there is more than one district in the state, followed by a "b" for bankruptcy, followed by ".uscourts.gov." For instance, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware can be reached at http://www.deb.uscourts.gov, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York can be visited at http://www.nysb.uscourts.gov.
Once you have arrived at a court's home page, you can browse through a number of topics by clicking on various buttons, boxes, icons or titles depending on how the web site has been designed. The home page will provide basic information and sometimes late-breaking information. The web sites will also provide a path to get to the local rules by clicking as indicated. Some web sites will provide opinions of the court, chambers' procedures, forms used in the court, clerk's office guidelines, a "what's new" or "what's hot" section, general information about the court, direct telephone numbers for certain key functions in the court, links to the district court and related bankruptcy court sites and a link to the court's database for looking up case specific information. Some courts have begun to post calendar information for the court's judges to assist the bar in scheduling hearings. As was described in Larry Bick's article on CM/ECF in March's issue of the ABI Journal, the court's web site is the vehicle for electronic case filing as well as the source of training modules on how to electronically file a document in a case. Some courts have also posted e-mail addresses of certain staff to facilitate answering questions and resolving problems that may occur. Some courts list e-mail addresses where proposed orders can be sent as attachments that are reviewed, modified and entered as appropriate by the court.
I would encourage all practitioners or appropriate members of their staff to become familiar with the web site for the court in which they practice and to check it often for changes that may occur.
In most cases, the documents posted on a court's web site can be downloaded and printed or e-mailed to desired recipients. In the case of the forms that are posted on the web site, in most instances they can be downloaded and modified with appropriate case information, then e-filed with the courts that have implemented electronic case filing.
I would encourage all practitioners or appropriate members of their staff to become familiar with the web site for the court in which they practice and to check it often for changes that may occur. If you can't find what you need on the web site, call the help line or similar number that is posted on the web site and ask for assistance in locating it on the web site if it is there, or suggest that it should be posted. Remember, this is an evolving and important communication tool that is there to assist the bar and the public and better enable the court and the clerk's office to provide useful information.