Monday, February 18, 2019

Bill would make online access to federal court records free

A bipartisan House bill has been introduced that would make accessing federal court records free to the public, and would also improve document accessibility. It would also be a boon to most journalists and news organizations, who aren't based in cities with federal courts.

"PACER, as the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system is otherwise known, currently charges between 10 cents and $3 for most searches, page views and PDF document downloads," Kayla Goggin reports for Courthouse News Service. "That would change under the [proposed] Electronic Court Records Reform Act, which is sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill."

Collins, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and Quigley, the co-founder and co-chair of the Transparency Caucus, said in statements last week that the bill would increase transparency and accountability, Goggin reports.

"Lawmakers introduced a similar bill in September but failed to get a hearing," Goggin reports. "The renewed proposal comes after a federal judge ruled last year that PACER fees have been unlawfully set above the amount authorized by Congress."

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