Articles Tagged with pacer

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PACER LogoOhhhhh PACER.

I’m a little bit behind on complaining about it, so here’s the executive summary to catch everyone up: One month after they celebrated 25 years of PACER, the whole thing went down, twice in one week.

In case you missed it, the Administrative Office of Courts issued a statement in December celebrating the twenty five year anniversary of PACER. The electronic filing service was started in 1988. It ushered in the era of electronic filing for federal court documents. To me, the irony of this “celebration” is that PACER, and the local CM/ECF systems, have barely changed since then.

As usual, the Third Branch PR team leads with how PACER has made access “universal.”

“Twenty-five years ago, the vast majority of cases were practically obscure. Today, every Third Branch court is using CM/ECF and PACER,” said Michel Ishakian, chief of staff for the AO’s Department of Program Services, who oversaw PACER from 2008 to 2013. “That means that all dockets, opinions, and case file documents can be accessed world-wide in real time, unless they are sealed or otherwise restricted for legal purposes. This level of transparency and access to a legal system is unprecedented and unparalleled.”

This is technically correct – but Mr. Ishakian neglects two caveats to this statement:

1. Users have to pay to access these documents. You pay to search for them, and you pay to download them.

2. The “opinions” available on PACER are slip opinions, not officially published case law. That means they can’t be cited in court.


Tagged: pacer, recap

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padlockTwo legislative crowdsourcing efforts came across my desk today: OpenPACER and Fork the Law. I love the idea of collective effort to make laws.

The government has tried this to some extent with Regulations.gov. There, you can sort, view, and comment on proposed regulations. An even better iteration of this is GovPulse, a site that was created in the private sector to categorize and search proposed regulations. GovPulse encourages users to comment and contact their representatives, but it’s not an official comment site.

OpenPACER and Fork the Law are something entirely new, however. They are created by citizens for citizens in order to change the law. If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know about PACER and efforts underway to eliminate the paywall. The folks at RECAP (a PACER recycling tool) have started OpenPACER to solve this problem legislatively. You know that saying “There ought to be a law?” – well, OpenPACER is acting on that by proposing legislation to “provide free and open access to electronic federal court records.”


Posted in: Laws, Legal Research

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California Watch, part of the Center for Investigative Reporting, has a post this week about the relative costs and revenue of PACER. We’ve talked about the problems with PACER fees and the impediments to access before, and it is certainly a familiar topic to those of us in the free law community, but it hasn’t gotten much attention outside of that.

It seems the California Watch found this information by doing some digging on PACER fees after it was denied a limited exemption based on its status as a nonprofit organization. Academics and nonprofits are typically awarded a waiver of fees “to promote public access to information.” CIR was originally granted an exemption, but then it was revoked, allegedly on the grounds that CIR is a media organization. According to the post, CIR is appealing the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.


Posted in: Legal Research

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Buried in an announcement from the Judicial Conference today on standards and procedures for sealing civil cases comes news of an approved fee increase for PACER access:

The Conference . . . authorized an increase in the Judiciary’s electronic public access fee in response to increasing costs for maintaining and enhancing the electronic public access system. The increase in the electronic public access (EPA) fee, from $.08 to $.10 per page, is needed to continue to support and improve the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system, and to develop and implement the next generation of the Judiciary’s Case Management/Electronic Case Filing system.


Posted in: Legal Research
Tagged: pacer, PACER Fees

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The Administrative Office of the US Courts issued a press release last week announcing that a “New Pilot Project Will Enhance Public Access to Federal Court Opinions.” According to the statement, select federal appellate and district courts will make their published opinions available on FDSys, as “FDSys can provide the public with a robust search engine that can search common threads across opinions and courts.” FDSys is run by the Government Printing Office (GPO), which issued a similar statement.

Let me start by saying I think this is a good thing. PACER has a lot of limitations, and moving opinions into a better search engine that is free to use and search is quite helpful. I like the idea of putting the bulk of government legal material (cases, codes, memos, etc.) into one database. It helps that the database will have the imprimatur of government on it, which will quiet the concerns about authentication that always pop up in these discussions.


Tagged: Case Law, fdsys, gpo, pacer