Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit took a big step backwards on transparency. Up until December 2014, the Federal Circuit would post on its website both its published opinions (its decisions in a case) and court orders affecting the procedure of a case. After December, the court effectively decided to stop posting orders. For example, in the third quarter of 2014, the court posted over 180 orders; but in the first quarter of 2015, the court only posted six orders.
Why are orders important? They inform the public of important events in legal cases that aren't a final, published opinion. These can include orders dismissing an appeal, orders granting temporary relief, orders transferring lawsuits from one trial court to another, and many more. For example, public interest groups like EFF rely on such orders to decide whether to participate in a case going forward, by filing an amicus brief. It's therefore very disappointing that the Federal Circuit decided to stop posting most of its orders.
Yesterday, EFF, along with Professor Dennis Crouch (the editor and author of the popular Patently-O blog), sent a letter to the Federal Circuit asking them to restore the publication of orders. EFF's blog post about the letter is here; Professor Crouch's blog post is here.