Power Outage For Federal Court Computer System Screws Up Three Months Worth Of Job Applications?!?


For years, we’ve talked about what a total joke the federal courts’ PACER system is. That’s the computer system the federal courts use for accessing court documents. It acts like it was designed in about 1998 and hasn’t been touched since (and even when it was designed, it wasn’t designed well). But that’s not the only fucked up computer system that the federal courts use. A few years back when I was an expert witness in a federal case, I had to make use of a different US court website just to get paid by the government — and while it’s been a few years, I still remember that it required you to use Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer! It had lots of other issues as well.

By now you may have realized that every computer system in the federal court system seems to be antiquated and poorly designed. And now we’ve got even more evidence of that. On Friday, the federal court system announced that a “power outage” probably fucked up clerkship and staff attorney applications going back three months.

Law school students and graduates who filed applications for federal court clerkships and staff attorney positions from June 7 to Aug. 31, 2019 using the OSCAR system may have to refile some documents in their applications. Notifications and instructions for refiling will be sent early next week.

Documents filed during that period may have been affected by a major power failure at one of the Judiciary’s service providers. The electrical outage affected the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR), which is used to process clerkship and staff attorney applications. The OSCAR system is back up and running.

Only applications filed during the period June 7 to Aug. 31 were affected. Judges and staff attorney offices that accepted applications through the OSCAR system during this period also are being notified.

Okay, sure, power outages happen. But… how is it possible that three months worth of applications and documents may be messed up from a single power outage? What sort of backup system are they running over there? I get that federal computer systems are antiquated, but this makes literally no sense at all. At some point in the last two decades, someone should have designed a computer system that doesn’t lose documents in the event of a power outage. Or, at the very least, it should have only lost documents that were filed in like the split second prior to the power outage.

Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder if PACER is honestly “the best” our federal court system can do.


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