- Veröffentlicht: 02. Februar 2017
PACER users between April 2010 and April 2016 are eligible to join litigation.
A lawsuit that claims the public is being overcharged by the US government's website for accessing federal court records just took a major step forward. A federal judge overseeing the litigation against PACER, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, just certified the case as a class action—meaning anybody who has used the service between 2010-2016 might be entitled to refunds if the government loses or settles.
Three nonprofits last year brought the suit that claims millions of dollars generated from a recent 25-percent increase in page fees are being illegally spent by a federal agency known as the Administrative Office of the Courts (AO). The cost for access is 10 cents per page and up to $3 a document. Judicial opinions are free.
The case is being brought by the National Consumer Law Center, the Alliance for Justice, and the National Veterans Legal Services Program. The organizations claim that, while the fees my not be onerous to some, for others the amount adds up and may hinder public access. What's more, they claim that the fees breach a congressional act—the E-government Act of 2002—requiring that PACER only levy charges that cover the government's cost to maintain the program.
Millions of dollars in fees have been diverted to other courthouse projects instead, the suit maintains. The system, once a dial-in phone service, became an Internet portal in 1998. Fees began at 7 cents per page, rose to 8 cents, and now are at 10 cents.
US District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the District of Columbia noted that her ruling (PDF) means the case moves to litigating the merits of the lawsuit and "in no way resolves the merits of plaintiffs’ challenge to the PACER fee schedule."
In a separate order, (PDF) the judge instructed the plaintiffs to begin the process of notifying PACER users if they want to join the lawsuit. The merits of the case will be litigated soon thereafter.
Autor(en)/Author(s): David Kravets
Quelle/Source: Ars Technica, 25.01.2017