The federal judiciary created PACER as a tool to ensure that lower courts’ documents, records and filings were publicly accessible—a core principle of America’s judicial system. This access increases transparency and helps researchers, journalists, students and individuals (such as pro se litigants) navigate our complex federal court system. However, by placing public records behind a paywall, PACER has undermined its promise of true public accessibility.
R Sheet on PACER Reform
- 1) PACER was created to increase public access to the United States’ full catalogue of federal court documents in the form of a one-stop shop.
- 2) The system’s paywall and lack of responsible management has stymied its usefulness as a public tool.
- 3) PACER’s fee system results in revenues that far exceed its mandated authority to collect money “only to the extent necessary [...] to reimburse expenses incurred in providing [its] services.”
- 4) To bring PACER in line with its revenue mandate and provide truly public electronic access, its per-page download fees should be significantly reduced or eliminated.