Legal Technology

Judge certifies class action claiming Pacer fees are too high

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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has certified a class action lawsuit that alleges federal courts are overcharging for online access to court records through Pacer.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle certified the class in a Jan. 24 opinion (PDF), report Politico, LawSites by Robert Ambrogi and (sub. req.).

The suit claims Pacer fees exceed the actual cost or providing the records, a violation of the E-Government Act of 2002. The current fee is 10 cents a page fee for court records, which is capped at $3 per record and $15 per billing cycle. Court opinions are free.

The class consists of anyone who has paid Pacer fees in the six years before the suit was filed, with the exception of federal agencies and class counsel.

The suit was filed by three legal advocacy groups that have incurred Pacer fees: the National Veterans Legal Services Program, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Alliance for Justice. calls Huvelle’s decision “a blow to the Justice Department, which has been fighting a series of cases over Pacer fees.” The department won dismissal of one suit in June that claimed Pacer uses a faulty pricing formula that overcharges users. A settlement is being discussed in a second case involving the same plaintiff as in the tossed case. And a third case filed in November alleges the system is improperly charging for judicial opinions.

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