Judicial Conference Announces Changes to PACER
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In a March 16, 2010 press release, the Judicial Conference of the United States announced "key steps 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 of the Public Access to Electronic Court Records (PACER) system."

Changes to the PACER system stemming from the announcment, include:

  • Allow[ing] courts, 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.
  • Adjust[ing] the Electronic Public Access fee schedule so that users are not 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.
  • Approv[ing] a pilot in up to 12 courts to publish federal district and bankruptcy court opinions via the Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) so members of the public can more easily search across opinions and across courts.

Previously:

  • digital audio recordings of court hearings were available to the public by ordering a CD for $26.00 per audio file.
  • PACER users were not billed unless their accounts totaled at least $10 in a one-year period.

For step-by-step details on utilizing and searching FDsys, PACER and its US Party/Case Index see The Cybersleuth's Guide to the Internet.

Also buried in the press release is news that a "new version of the [US Party/Case Index] search tool, which includes additional search capabilities and result formats, has been developed and will be deployed under the new name PACER Case Locator this month." There is no indication if this new PACER Case Locator will encompass all courts with a unified search, or continue the holes in coverage of the existing US Party/Case Index.

The Judicial Conference is the policy-making body for the federal court system. The Chief Justice serves as its presiding officer. It is comprised of the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch.

 

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