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Bipartisan Bill Would Facilitate Access to Court Records

Legislation Would Ensure Easy, Affordable Access to PACER

Fix the Court is applauding the introduction of bipartisan legislation that would secure convenient and affordable public access to federal court records. 

Democratic and Republican senators in the Judiciary and Finance Committees announced the Electronic Court Record Reform Act on Friday. The bill would make the federal court document search engine called PACER, for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, free of charge and would require the judiciary to develop a uniform method of filing, tracking and saving case information. 

FTC has long advocated for opening up the judiciary and sees this as an important step, considering how PACER has turned into a $145 million-a-year cash cow and that online information nowadays should almost always be free.

“As long as access to federal court records is contingent on ability to pay a fee, there will continue to be individuals and organizations effectively barred from seeing certain public documents,” FTC senior researcher Tyler Cooper said. “It’s encouraging to see senators from both parties recognize this problem and come together in hopes of building a more accessible federal judiciary.”

Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced the Senate bill.

The House version was introduced in February by Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Phil Roe (R-TN) and Hank Johnson (D-GA). The House Judiciary Committee is planning on holding a hearing on PACER later this month.

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