Western District proposes rules for online sentencing reports

Presentence reports would be submitted and served via the CM/ECF system under proposed amendments to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan’s local court rules.

The proposed changes to W.D. Mich. LCivR 32 would also require that objections to the report would be filed on CM/ECF as well.

According to commentary accompanying the proposed changes:

Improvements to the CM/ECF software will allow both Probation and counsel to restrict access to these documents, so that the court, the Probation Office and counsel for the relevant parties will have access, but no other person. In this way, the confidentiality of these documents will be preserved, while saving the cost of traditional service and creating a permanent electronic record of these documents.

Here’s a court-provided summary of the proposed changes:

Proposed Rule 32.2(c)(1) requires the Probation Office to submit the disclosure presentence report by the CM/ECF system, with access restricted to the court, the Probation Office, and attorneys for the government and for the relevant defendant. Therefore, neither the public nor co-defendants will have access to the disclosure presentence report.

Likewise, the United States Attorney and counsel for represented defendants must submit any objections to the disclosure presentence report by the CM/ECF system, again restricting access. Proposed Rule 32.2(d). If a party has no objections, the CM/ECF software will allow counsel to so indicate, without the necessity of generating a separate document.

Revised presentence reports, and objections thereto, will be governed by the same process. The intent is that all such documents, which were never disclosed to the public in the past, would remain confidential.

Until the final presentence report has been submitted, the court has neither the intention of accessing the report or objections nor a reason to do so. These documents will be available thereafter, however, should the court (or the Court of Appeals) require access for the purpose of resolving any issue regarding sentencing.

The final PSIR will be submitted by the CM/ECF system, again with restricted access. Amended Rule 32.2(f). Thereafter, sentencing memoranda, motions for departure or variance, and other submissions to the court regarding sentencing should be submitted without restriction, unless the submitting party first obtains leave of court. The court recognizes that these filings sometimes contain sensitive matter, such as details of a defendant’s cooperation, that will merit restricted access. The burden will be on the submitting party to justify restricting access before the document is filed.

Comments are encouraged. All comments should be in writing and must be received by the Court no later than October 17, 2011. Comments should be addressed to:
Tracey Cordes, Clerk
United States District Court
399 Ford Federal Building
110 Michigan, N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
or submitted electronically to ecfhelp@miwd.uscourts.gov. The Court will consider all comments at its December meeting before promulgating a final version of the proposed rules.

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