Sometime after 3 p.m. today our court reporter, Rick Lee, tweeted that the state Superior Court had denied Zachary Witman a new trial. Rick had to duck back into a trial he was covering, so in the office, we started reporting the story.
Among other things, we called Superior Court to ask them to fax us a copy of the decision. The court only puts selected decisions on their website, and this one wasn’t up.
That’s bad enough — a barrier to access for anyone in the state who wants to read a Superior Court decision. But then came the real problem: Their fax machine wouldn’t connect to ours. They tried two different numbers several times (give them credit for that).
And then they said: We’re not trying any more. We’re doing this as a courtesy, anyway, and you should come and pick it up.
We said: Can you scan it as a PDF and e-mail it to us? No, they said, we’re not going to do that. Why don’t you send someone to Harrisburg to get the paperwork? Why don’t we? Because it’s 4:30, and we couldn’t get to Harrisburg in time.
So, they said, call someone in Harrisburg and have them get it for you. Sure, let us consult our rolodex of Harrisburg residents who are waiting for us to call so they can run to the courthouse and pick up paperwork for us.
So, instead of taking, what, five minutes to scan a document, attach it to an e-mail, type “firstname.lastname@example.org” and hit send, the Superior Court upheld whatever principle it was trying to uphold by sticking to its policy that essentially keeps public documents away from the public.
That’s going the extra mile to serve the people of Pennsylvania, isn’t it?
And as a P.S. (and unsolicited advice): If the Superior Court wanted to serve the public better, it would do one of two things: 1. Put its decisions online; or, less efficient but better than what the court does now, 2. have media and other interested parties sign up to be included on a mass e-mail for Superior Court decisions.