To start the new year, the Third Circuit announced that beginning on January 1, 2020, “docket entries listed on the Court’s docket will be numbered. All cases opened in 2020 will have consecutive numbers assigned to each entry.”
Cases opened before January 1, 2020, of which the Third Circuit said there are about 2,800, will have “mixed” dockets, “containing both numbered and unnumbered entries.” That is because “[d]ocket entry numbers cannot be assigned to entries made prior to January 1, 2020 due to coding issues within the program. Entries made prior to January 1, 2020 will continue to be listed by filing date only and document icon where applicable.”
The Third Circuit stated its belief that this change “will add clarity to the Court’s dockets and will benefit the public, litigants, and practitioners.” That is unquestionably so. The previous system of assigning numbers to filings was opaque and uninformative. This change aligns the Third Circuit with the ECF system in the District of New Jersey, where each filing is numbered consecutively, facilitating transparency and ease of citation.
New Jersey’s eCourts Appellate system could use a similar improvement. Each entry there is given a lengthy designation that begins with a letter, is followed by a series of seemingly unrelated numbers, then a hyphen, and then the full date of filing of the document(s). A system such as that used in the District Court of New Jersey and, now, the Third Circuit, would be easier for everyone to use and follow.