The majority of people who want to access the US court records Pacer database are typically charged 10 cents per page. This records database comprises papers and documents filed by litigants in Federal Courts. While 10 cents doesn’t sound a great deal critics say that this is only the beginning and a more holistic view should be adopted towards the process and ultimately costs. PACER is seen as an outdated system and given the length and breadth of US court records Pacer may even be deemed dysfunctional. The system does not allow a search function by content, district and/or bankruptcy. Neither does it allow for circuit courts which form Federal judiciary.
It also seems apparent that there is very little outside developers can contribute or do. Neither is it possible to search by keywords. The shortfall in the system is also put down to fees. If records were free then competitive services would surface which would improve the experience. After 28 years of handling US court records Pacer’s paywall is now facing serious questions. A lawsuit is currently being mulled in Washington as to whether Pacer fees are unlawfully high.
The case seeks class action status and is being brought by 3 non profit organizations. The National Veterans Legal Service Program , The National Consumer Law Center and The Alliance for Justice . The groups maintain that costs in recovering records exceed provision costs. All further maintain that the process contravenes the E-Government Act authorizing the judiciary to “reasonable fees”. By allegedly contravening the Act it inhibits public understanding (courts) and thwarts equal access to justice. The papers were filed in April. Hundreds of thousands of individuals over the past six years may be eligible to refunds.
In order to get a handle on the US court records Pacer system and the impending case it is helpful to understand how the justice system uses Pacer. It has approximately 2.3 million accounts. Fees are capped at 30 pages and it is waived for litigants. Their legal advisors and any individual spending less than $15 in any quarter. This confirmed byt the Administrative Office of the US Courts who manage the system. The majority of users pay nothing while those making bulk requests distort charges with in excess of 500 million requests each year. Discretion is used for academic researchers and fees may be waived. Those ineligible for waivers include government agencies, journalists and lawyers who are paid privately. For the full article please follow this link.