National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Why PACER removed access to case archives of five courts

If you want to download court records in the United States, your first stop is probably PACER, the oft-maligned digital warehouse for public court records. Maintained by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the system charges 10 cents per page of search results within its archive, and 10 cents per actual page of court documents that are officially in the public record. It's a useful tool for attorneys, but often difficult for the average citizen to navigate and understand.

Freedom of information advocates have long criticized PACER — and tried to create some public archives outside it. But at least, for the most part, digital copies of more recent court documents were available somewhere. However, on Aug. 10, the database unceremoniously announced the removal of access to certain case files — and not just a handful, but entire categories of documents coming from five courts.

Charles Hall, a spokesperson for the Administrative Office, told The Post via e-mail that the change was made on Aug. 11 in preparation for an overhaul of the the PACER architecture, including the implementation of the next generation of the Judiciary's Case Management and Electronic Case Files System. "NextGen replaces the older CM/ECF system and provides improvements for users, including a single sign-on for PACER and NextGen," he wrote. Continue>>>