Letters Supporting "Free PACER" And/Or the Open Courts Act (Aug.-Dec. 2020)

Text of H.R. 8235, which passed the House by voice vote on Dec. 8, 2020 | Section-by-section description of the bill

Letters

Dec. 10: After House passage, 26 media and pro-transparency groups thank Reps. Johnson and Collins

LINK | “We also want to thank you for negotiating in good faith with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. […] In spite of compromises, we were disappointed to learn shortly before the vote that the AO continued to oppose the bill and was dispatching judges to lobby against it until the last minute. We were confident that you would not be intimidated, and you were not.”

Dec. 7: Legal tech executives support free PACER

LINK | Key quote: “Based on our experience, we can say that the Open Courts Act will create American jobs, level the playing field for American entrepreneurs, and modernize the crown jewel of America’s open government infrastructure. These improvements would enhance access to the our federal courts and would create second order access to justice improvements for all Americans.”

Dec. 4: Retired federal judges support free PACER

LINK | Key quote: “We write to assure you that the AO does not speak for all federal judges. We, as well as many of our colleagues, adamantly support the Open Courts Act in its current form. We welcome the enhanced access to justice and the unfettered access to court records that its passage will bring.”

Dec. 1: Former government technologists and IT experts support free PACER

LINK | Key quote: “We are confident that under no circumstance would building and implementing the new system described in the OCA cost $2 billion or even several hundred million dollars. We estimate the cost to be in the $10–$20 million range over 36 months to build and then $3–$5 million annually to continue to develop and maintain.”

Dec. 1: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press supports free PACER

LINK | Key quote: “When reporters cannot access court records because of excessive fees, the public loses.”

Nov. 11: Free Law Project and Fix the Court refute AO’s anti-free PACER talking points

LINK | Key quote: “Using security and privacy risks as a bludgeon to try to beat the OCA into oblivion should not discourage your efforts. Director Duff seeks to paint a free PACER system as a privacy disaster, but we have far greater concerns about the current system’s security health. We believe the new system, as described in the OCA, would be more secure, not less.” (This letter was a rebuttal this letter.)

Sept. 22: Retired federal judges, law librarians and media and pro-transparency groups support free PACER

LINK | Key quote: “Reform is often challenging, but it is imperative when the status quo limits access to justice. It is unjust to charge for court documents and place undue burdens on students, researchers, pro se litigants, and interested members of the public – not to mention the journalists who cover the courts. The fairest alternative is not moving from 10 cents a page to eight cents; it’s no price at all.”

Aug. 26: Media and pro-transparency groups support free PACER

LINK | Key quote: “We want to head off an assertion you’re likely to hear as legislation proceeds: how PACER fees are critical to cover the judiciary’s costs to operate its CM/ECF system. Remember, we’re talking about an operation that comprises uploading, downloading and searching for static PDF documents. That’s it. This and other ancillary programs should under no circumstances cost upwards of $150 million annually to operate.”

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