PACER Fee and Access Changes

The Judicial Conference of the United States has approved some changes to the PACER system to “improve public access to federal courts by increasing the availability of court opinions and expanding the services and reducing the costs for many users.”

  • One change is regarding fees. Users will now not be billed “unless they accrue charges of more than $10 of PACER usage in a quarterly billing cycle, in effect quadrupling the amount of data available without charge. Currently, users are not billed until their accounts total at least $10 in a one-year period.”
    Looks like the change means that if you don’t spend $10 in a quarter, then your balance reverts back to zero at the start of the next quarter. So, you can get up to $40 worth of free content per year (4 quarters x $10) now versus the previous $10 per year.

  • A pilot was also approved for up to 12 courts to publish federal district and bankruptcy court opinions via FDsys (the sequel to GPO Access). I think that this project has good potential for making opinions more accessible to the public. Although all court opinions are available through PACER free of charge and will remain so, the fact that you have to have a PACER account to view them is off-putting for many public patrons. Putting them of FDsys is a better option.
  • Finally, courts will now be allowed, at the discretion of the presiding judge, to make digital audio recordings of court hearings available online to the public through PACER, for $2.40 per audio file.
    This decision comes after a two-year pilot project in which there was significant interest in accessing the audio files, however during the pilot, there was only an 8 cent access charge. The increase to $2.40 was deemed by the Conference to be “reasonable and come closest to recouping, but not exceeding, costs.” Digital audio recording is used in most bankruptcy and district courts.

For more info, see the press release on the US Courts website. Hat tip to Marc Weinberger at the U.S. Courts Library, Western District of Wisconsin.