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PACER Is Out of Pace, Petition Says

Uspacer Anyone who uses PACER knows that it has failed to keep pace with the Web 2.0 world. Its technology is outmoded and so is its cost structure. Now, some fed-up law librarians have launched a petition drive to ask the federal courts to enhance the system's authenticity, usability and availability.

PACER -- Public Access to Court Electronic Records -- is the system operated by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to provide online access to case and docket information from the federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts. To use it, one must register and set up a billing account. The billing account is required because the courts charge for access to these documents, at the rate of 8 cents per page. Even if you search PACER and find no matches for your query, you are charged 8 cents to view the page that tells you that.

The petition to improve PACER is the work of Erika V. Wayne, deputy law library director at Stanford Law School, and her law librarian colleagues. It is modest in its requests, asking the court to make three enhancements:

1. Digitally sign document put into PACER so they can be verified
2. Make it more accessible by lowering its cost and improving its Web interface
3. Provide free PACER access to depository libraries

Those who sign the petition are invited to add comments. At the blog Legal Research Plus, Wayne highlights some of these and you can read all of them at the petition site.

One who signed the petition is Carl Malamud, who has taken a different path around PACER's problems by launching his own PACER recycling site. The idea behind it is to encourage PACER users to recycle the documents they retrieve by uploading them to Malamud's site, where he hopes to build a significant database of PACER documents available to the public free of charge.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 23, 2009 at 03:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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