Plaintiffs allege $145 million in federal court records fees have been used to cover other costs
Newswire: Jan. 25, 2017.
A lawsuit against PACER, the huge electronic records system for the United States’ federal court system, will proceed as a class action following a judge’s ruling earlier this week.
The decision means anyone using PACER — Public Access to Court Electronic Records — between 2010 and 2016 is part of the plaintiff class in the suit, originally brought by three nonprofits. They have alleged that the $145 million in fees charged for electronic records production over that seven-year span goes beyond the amount the federal courts should lawfully charge, and in fact is subsidizing other costs.
The National Consumer Law Center, the Alliance for Justice and the National Veterans Legal Services Program allege that PACER violates the E-Government Act of 2002 (pdf), which requires PACER to collect fees only for the maintenance of the program.
Fees for PACER now stand at 10 cents per page. The system charged 7 per page when it began almost 20 years ago. The plaintiffs say that while the fees may not be onerous to businesses and legal professionals, for others they may be a barrier to public access, and that the money has funded other courthouse projects.
The judge in the case previously rejected a motion by the government to dismiss the complaint; no ruling has been made on the merits of the allegations.
The case is National Veterans Legal Services Program et al. v. United States, No. 16-745 (2016).
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