Class action over PACER fees nears resolution with 'agreement in principle' to settle the case

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The U.S. government and class action representatives have reached “an agreement in principle” to settle a lawsuit contending that PACER fees are excessive.

The agreement was revealed in a joint status report filed with a federal court in Washington, D.C., report Law360, Law.com and Reuters.

Details of the agreement were not disclosed. U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman of the District of Columbia directed the parties to file another status report regarding their settlement efforts on or before Jan. 20, 2022.

PACER, the court’s federal electronic records system, is the acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records. Federal law limits PACER fees to the amount needed to cover the expenses of providing public access to federal court electronic docketing information.

The named plaintiffs are three nonprofits—the Alliance for Justice, the National Veterans Legal Services Program and the National Consumer Law Center. Their 2016 lawsuit alleged that the 10-cents-per-page download fee, capping out at $3 per document, was much higher than the actual cost of providing public records.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in August 2020 that a federal judge “got it just right” when she ruled in 2018 that PACER fees could be used for the Case Management and Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) System, but they shouldn’t have been spent on unrelated projects.

The federal judge, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of Washington, D.C., ruled that the fees shouldn’t have been used to pay the judiciary’s expenditures for most courtroom technology, for a juror-information webpage, for information about federal offenders sent to local law enforcement, and for a study that provided software to the state of Mississippi for electronic case access.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Out of pace with reality? PACER’s flaws run counter to original purpose of increasing access to law”

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