Earlier this week, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the legality of fees charged by the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system.
The suit, NVLSP v. U.S., was brought by three national nonprofit organizations (the National Veterans Legal Services Program, the National Consumer Law Center, and Alliance for Justice) arguing that PACER fees violate federal law because they exceed the cost of operating the system.
The three-judge panel appeared skeptical of the Department of Justice’s position that the case should be dismissed because no statute gives PACER users a damages remedy for recouping excessive fees. From Westlaw Practitioner Insights:
Circuit Judge Raymond Clevenger was particularly skeptical of the jurisdictional argument, telling DOJ lawyer Alisa Klein that it would effectively allow the judiciary to make the public pay for “curtains at the Supreme Court” or “redecorating all judges’ offices with gold plate” without accountability.Congress “authorized the judicial conference to charge a fee even if it was knowingly, blatantly illegal and to collect the fee and to have absolutely no remedy — that’s your position?” Clevenger asked Klein during a heated exchange.