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September 2009

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Electronic Public Access Program/PACER Assessment Begun

The Judiciary’s Electronic Public Access Program is looking for user input. The program, which recently celebrated its one-millionth Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) subscriber, has launched a year-long, comprehensive assessment to identify potential enhancements to existing and new public access services.

Focus groups, interviews, and surveys are being used to gather information on what PACER users would like to see in the program. The assessment initiative was endorsed by the Judiciary’s Electronic Public Access working group in 2008, begun in early 2009, and is slated to conclude in 2010.

“This is a comprehensive effort to listen to our users and hear what they have to say,” said Michel Ishakian, chief of the Administrative Office’s Public Access and Records Management Division. “Their input will help define the next generation of PACER and how we expand public access services.”

PACER enables users to obtain federal court case and docket information for all 94 district courts, 90 bankruptcy courts, and 13 courts of appeals on the Internet. PACER currently provides access to 500 million case documents, which are available immediately after they have been electronically filed.

The diverse user population includes lawyers, litigants who represent themselves, government agencies, trustees, researchers, educational institutions, commercial enterprises, financial institutions, the media, and the general public. The Congressionally authorized Electronic Public Access fee revenue is used exclusively to fund program expenses and enhancements that increase public access to the courts, including court websites, electronic bankruptcy noticing, on-line juror services, Violent Crime Control Act victim notification, the Case Management/Electronic Case Files system, and a digital audio project offering recordings of court proceedings. The fee is set by the Judicial Conference at $0.08 per page; there is a $2.40 maximum charge for any single document, no matter its length; the fee does not apply to opinions– which are available through PACER free of charge; and the fee is waived for usage amounting to less than $10.00 per year. In fiscal year 2008,

50 percent of PACER users did not pay fees as a result of fee waivers and exemptions.

Additional information on the assessment, including how to participate, can be found at www.pacer.gov or www.uscourts.gov.