Pilot Project for Electronic Notice and Service of Pre-Sentence Reports in Criminal Cases
The U.S. Pretrial Services and Probation Department and the Clerk's Office have been working on a pilot project to provide judges and attorneys with electronic access to pre-sentence reports in criminal cases through the CM/ECF system. Some counsel have already been served pre-sentence reports electronically. If the pilot project continues to be successful, we anticipate that electronic filing of pre-sentence reports will become standard in all criminal cases.
Counsel in criminal cases should be aware that:
- They may receive electronic notice in a particular case that the pre-sentence report will be provided electronically, rather than on paper. Only the cases of a few judges are included in the pilot at this time, although the number of participating judges is being expanded as this is being written.
- Electronic access to the pre-sentence report in CM/ECF is only provided to those who would have received paper copies in the past. The Probation Department identifies the attorneys who should receive notice and access to the pre-sentence report when they enter the report into CM/ECF. If the case has more than one defendant, only the attorney for the defendant named in the report and the U.S. Attorney will receive the electronic notice. The docket entry for that filing will only be available to those attorneys. The public and other attorneys on the case will not be able to view the docket entry.
- The pre-sentence report itself (the PDF document) will be sealed. Because the report is sealed, the document will not become immediately available to the attorneys who receive electronic notice of the filing until the Clerk's Office takes the additional step of "releasing" the document, which makes it available to the attorneys previously identified by the Probation Department as needing access. This additional step may take until the next business day, but will typically be done much sooner, often within a matter of minutes. So, if you have received notice that a pre-sentence report has been entered into CM/ECF, and the system does not provide access to it immediately, just try again later in the day. Counsel will be sent a second electronic notice when the pre-sentence report is "released" for viewing. If the report remains unavailable for a full business day, please give the Clerk's Office a call so that we may assist you.
- Please note that because the pre-sentence report will be sealed, you must log into the CM/ECF system with your CM/ECF login and password to retrieve it. You will not be able to access the pre-sentence report by entering only your PACER login and password, as you might with other documents, because the PACER system does not track the necessary information required to establish that you are associated with the case and are eligible to view the pre-sentence report.
The Pretrial Services and Probation Office and the Clerk's Office are currently working with a limited number of judges on this pilot project now, but hope to expand it to all criminal cases in the near future.