Judicial Conference Approves PACER Fee Increase

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.

Interesting, given the remarks and research of our friend Steve Schultze, Associate Director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton. Schultze noted that while Congress allowed the Judicial Conference to charge a “reasonable fee” for public access to PACER, it also mandated that the fees be used only as reimbursement to cover the costs of running that specific program. In fact, Shultze reported that the Judicial Conference spends fees collected from PACER on a variety of court services other than PACER, which flies in the face of the statutory limitation set by Congress.  This is even more curious, as Schultze noted, given the accompanying conference report from Congress which urged the Judicial Conference to move “to a fee structure in which this information is freely available to the greatest extent possible.”

We’re not sure how a 25% increase in fees makes this information more freely available. Anyone?

Additional Resources

Electronic Public Access Fees and the United States Federal Courts’ Budget: An Overview, Stephen Schultze.

On PACER and FDSys, Justia Law, Technology & Legal Marketing Blog.

Leave PACER Alone. . .For Now, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog.