Pacer fees are too high, class action alleges

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The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts illegally charges excessive fees for Pacer, the federal electronic court records system, a lawsuit (PDF) filed Thursday asserts.

The case alleges that the 10-cents-per-page download fee, capping out at $3, is much higher that the actual cost of providing public records, and may prevent access to important court records. It was brought by the Alliance for Justice, the National Veterans Legal Services and the National Consumer Law Center.

According to a press release about the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the administrative office has a practice that discourages waiving Pacer fees for pro se litigants, journalists, researchers and nonprofit organizations.The three name plaintiffs are all nonprofits.

Although Congress intended Pacer fees to cover its operating fees, the administrative office uses the money to pay for the judiciary’s public access offerings, according to the complaint. It’s also alleged that the Pacer service center has used private collections agencies to sue people who owed them money.

“Faith in our judicial system depends on transparency and uninhibited access to court documents for all Americans, regardless of the ability to pay,” Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice said in a press release about the lawsuit. “ It’s particularly disturbing that the courts themselves are violating a plainly written law, especially one designed specifically to promote public confidence in the judicial system.”

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts was not available for comment at press time.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Suit claims Pacer is overcharging for docket reports because of counting error”

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