Senator Lieberman to Federal Courts and PACER: “Let us keep the change!”

2009 March 6
by Attorney Mark Dumas

pacerAny lawyer who practices in federal court knows about PACER.  It is the electronic records service for federal lawsuits and it costs 8¢ per page.  That’s 8¢ per page for downloads.  Yes, it can add up quickly and our very own Senator Joe Lieberman wants that to change.

When PACER was launched, it was an amazing thing and it saved everyone money.  No more dashing to the courthouse to file a brief or calls to Federal Express to pick up a motion that needed to be served on the other side by noon.  But technology and people’s expectations about online access to records have shifted over the years.

According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Lieberman thinks because of those shifts, it is time for the courts to reconsider PACER fees.

In a letter sent last week, Lieberman asked why — when as of the end of 2006, the federal judiciary had a $150 million surplus in its technology fund — the judiciary continues to charge the public for documents….

“While charging for access was initially required, Section 205(e) of the E-Government Act changed a provision of the Judicial Appropriation Act of 2002 (28 U.S.C. 1913) so that courts ‘may, to the extent necessary’ instead of ’shall’ charge fees ‘for access to information available through automatic data processing equipment,” Lieberman wrote.

Senator Lieberman has a lot of critics in Connecticut — and online — but we should all agree that he is on the right track with this issue.

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