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Judiciary Adopts New Model EDR Plan, Doubles Fee Waiver for PACER

The federal Judiciary’s national policy making body today approved a new model employment dispute resolution (EDR) plan that will simplify and expand the options for addressing wrongful workplace conduct and, in other action, took steps to make electronic access to court records free for more users.  

The revised model EDR plan, adopted today by the Judicial Conference of the United States, is the latest step in the Judiciary’s continued commitment to establishing and maintaining an exemplary workplace. The new plan includes definitions and examples of wrongful conduct; three flexible options for resolving conduct issues; flowcharts that explain EDR rights and options; and training requirements for EDR coordinators and judiciary employees. The model EDR plan was recommended by a Judicial Conference committee, which considered a draft prepared by a Judiciary working group following a Judiciary-wide comment period earlier this year.

Many of the provisions included in the new model EDR plan are based on recommendations made by the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group, which submitted a report to the Judicial Conference in June 2018. The Working Group evaluated Judiciary standards of conduct and procedures to identify and address workplace conduct issues. Its recommendations included:

  • Adopting clear and consistent workplace conduct policies;
  • Offering additional avenues to report misconduct; and
  • Providing more workplace conduct training.

In March 2019, the Judicial Conference amended the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges; the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees; and the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act Rules. This resulted in implementation of many of the Working Group’s recommendations.

Today the Judicial Conference received from the Workplace Conduct Working Group a written status report on the implementation of the Group’s recommendations. The Working Group will continue to monitor workplace conduct matters throughout the Judiciary, assist with implementation of the various initiatives, and if necessary, recommend additional changes.

PACER Fee Waiver Doubled

In separate action today, the Judicial Conference doubled the quarterly fee waiver for users of the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system (PACER) from $15 to $30. This will result in more than 75 percent of the system’s users paying no fee in a given quarter.

PACER provides the public with instantaneous access to virtually every document filed in every federal court. No tax dollars are expended for the operation and maintenance of PACER. Only those who use the system pay for it. There are approximately 2.5 million registered users for the PACER system, which contains more than one billion case documents.

Access to case information via PACER costs ten cents per page and the cost to access a single document is capped at $3, the equivalent of 30 pages. Litigants receive a free electronic copy of each document in their case, the public has free access to case information at the courthouse, and judges’ opinions are available for free. In addition, courts may exempt individuals or groups, such as indigents, pro bono attorneys, academic researchers, and not-for-profit organizations from paying the fee.   

As a result of these measures, approximately 87 percent of all PACER revenue is attributable to just 2 percent of users—large financial institutions and major commercial enterprises that aggregate massive amounts of data for analysis and resale.

The new quarterly fee waiver will take effect January 1, 2020 and covers PACER use after that date.

The 26-member Judicial Conference is the policy-making body for the federal court system. By statute, the Chief Justice of the United States serves as its presiding officer and its members are 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.

Related Topics: Judicial Conference of the United States