“To provide the public with open access to electronic federal court records.”

That is the plan for The Open PACER Act being pushed by OpenPACER.org.

Today there was a cross-posting on the Law Library Blog (not to be confused with the Law Librarian Blog), and Legal Research Plus. You can read the proposed bill and see how it asks for open access to the federal court records.

We’ve talked before on PACER and open access (which I took some criticizm.) I think that the idea of a free PACER system, especially one that better modernizes the platform, would be great. However, I do not want to see the Federal Court System chopped off at the knees by removing a source of funding for the Courts without offsetting those cuts. So, if the Courts lose PACER revenues, then Congress should make sure they balance that by offsetting the costs through increased funding. Currently, I do not see that in the Open PACER Act. Any chance for a friendly amendment??

  • Chrissy


    I do agree with you in that I'm not sure we would be better off if PACER went completely free.

    The example I see thrown around is the USPTO PAIR database. Yes, it is completely free to the public and contains everything in the 'file wrapper'. But I believe that this works so well is two fold:

    1.) The file wrappers are used by the examiners and applicants to conduct patent prosecution. IE the USPTO already has incentive to have this database set up.

    2.) Fees. Being involved with patents most of the time, I have had minimal interaction with other courts, but the fees required by the USPTO far outstrip any fees I have seen collected at civil, bankruptcy, family, etc courts.

    Now there are some issues with PACER, but eliminating fees will only make matters worse for this database. (Like the snail mailing of a log in password… that's akin to using a horse to pull a working car)

  • Joe

    I'd love to see a hybrid approach where the metadata (case info, docket reports, parties, etc) are freely available, although getting the PDFs themselves still have a nominal fee.

    It would be especially phenomenal if they would publish an API with this data. This would allow developers (like myself) to completely modernize the system while retaining a good portion of the court's funding.

    My company is building a modern version of PACER with powerful search, mobile, etc and it is very painful (and expensive) without having the metadata freely available.