PACER court records requires a funding source, to make them available to the public for free will only require an alternative funding option. Legislation proposes free access however seemingly this would increase litigation costs (Court fees) and may well present a bar to justice as a result of these costs. PACER is the federal court’s electronic records system. Without additional options the proposals would burden the courts with new costs. PACER court records and the associated public access and case management systems require around $100 million per annum to operate. This was put forward by the Judicial Conference which is the policy making department for the U.S. Court System. While the PACER court records was the more pressing subject the meeting also covered court room cameras and the abundance of sealed court records. In excess of 500 million case information requests were processed in the last fiscal year yet some critics argue that public access to the Federal courts is hindered.
The fee waiver will see over 75% of PACER court records users in any quarter paying no costs/fees. PACER has around 2.5 million registered users with access available to over 1 billion case documents. Currently public access to PACER documents is 10 cents per page, with the cost for a single document capped at $3. There is legislation pending along with ongoing litigation (Fee waivers). Likely increase in costs to cover fee waivers would be around $750 per case and this could inflate current civil filing fees to $1,100 (from $350). The judiciary has advised it is doubling the quarterly fee waiver to $30. Those eligible for fee waivers are non profits, the media and individuals. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts advised that 87% of all revenue was attributable to only 2% of users. That being commercial enterprises and financial institutions.
A non profit organisation representing these commercial enterprises puts forward that the integrity of a background check relies on speed and accuracy along with a personal identifier such as the complete date of birth. Around 96% of employees conduct screening in order to determine the appropriate candidate. What appears to be an anomaly within background screening is the absence of a date of birth mindful that the subject would have made available his or her date of birth in any aplication. PACER court records currently do not provide DOBs and local and State courts are increasingly redacting this information. This makes it difficult for CRA’s and background screening companies to determine conclusively whether a criminal record relates to an individual especially if the subject has a common name. While redacting may well be seen as well intentioned (Privacy/data concerns) the consequences can be severe. Should congress not direct the Judicial Conference to ensure a subject’s date of birth is inclusive to PACER court records.
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