April 30, 2010
PACER News: The Good and the Bad
Two items of note in the most recent PACER Center Newsletter. The first is this reminder that the courts are not keen to see PACER content out in the wild:
PACER Policy Reminder
Public Access to Court Electronic Records is supported by user fees. Any attempt to collect data from PACER in a manner which avoids billing is strictly prohibited and may result in in criminal prosecution or civil action. PACER privileges will be terminated if, in the judgment of judiciary personnel, they are being misused. Misuse includes, but is not limited to, using an automated process to repeatedly access those portions of the PACER application that do not assess a fee (i.e. calendar events report or case header information) for purposes of collecting case information.
An on the positive side, PACER is replacing its access system with one that will encompass all the federal courts with one login, rather than the current system that only logs in to the local jurisdiction. The new interface is at http://pcl.uscourts.gov. A PACER login ID and password is required to get past the first screen. After all, PACER is supported by user fees. More details on enhanced features in the new access are available from the April, 2010 PACER Newsletter (free access, he notes with some sarcasm). [MG]
There are two iphone apps that allow one to effectively use pacer.gov on the iPhone or iPad. They are FedCtRecords which works for district courts and FedCtBank which works for Bankruptcy courts. They really make pacer.gov usable on a mobile device.
Posted by: Jon Oldfather | May 2, 2012 5:33:50 PM
I need to contact someone who is an expert in the workings of PACER. There is a PACER subscriber out there who has made a court opinion accessible through PACER without a user name or password but directly from the PACER server. This document is putting my reputation and business at risk. True it is free to access court opinions for free on PACER but you are supposed to need a user name and password to do that. I am trying to learn who is doing this as it seems they are trying to hurt my reputation and business. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Posted by: James Fitzgerald | Mar 23, 2011 11:06:21 AM
Isn't this access system a new face on the old United States Party / Case Index?
I'd sure like to see more access points (like judge name and attorney name to start).
Posted by: Joan | May 3, 2010 12:42:25 PM
Two cool things about the new case finder are that 1) you can sort the data (by party name, court, case number, date filed, date closed) and 2) you can export the data to Excel! Very useful in my world.
Posted by: Les | Apr 30, 2010 4:31:44 PM
I'm a RECAP developer. RECAP does not appear to violate those terms:
Staff of the Courts have also told us so directly.
I am also a PACER researcher. With respect to your question on the profit, see my working paper:
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs agrees that they are charging more than the cost:
A correction on your last point. There is already a single sign-on system for PACER. The only change is that they have updated the US Party Case Index:
...with a new system they call the Pacer Case Locator (which you linked to). The PCL is almost identical to the USPCI, but it allows searching on a couple additional fields. Other than that, nothing new.
Posted by: Steve | Apr 30, 2010 10:43:59 AM
I don't think RECAP falls under what that Policy Reminder is prohibiting. Look carefully at what it says.
"Any attempt to collect data from PACER in a manner which avoids billing is strictly prohibited..."
When data from PACER is archived by RECAP users, those RECAP users pay all the fees applicable. So data is not "collected" in a manner that avoids billing. However, after it's been collected once and archived, subsequently when another RECAP user wants to see that data, they don't have to access PACER for it at all. They access that data from another source, namely the RECAP archive hosted by archive.org.
"Misuse includes, but is not limited to, using an automated process to repeatedly access those portions of the PACER application that do not assess a fee"
First of all, RECAP isn't really "automated" as I understand it. Automated access would be something like a script or spider that scrapes the website for data. RECAP however isn't automated. It collects data as real live users use the system and pay for access of PACER data. Furthermore, RECAP only collects and archives data that PACER is charging for. It doesn't collect or archive the free PACER content, as I understand it.
Posted by: Alex Clark | Apr 30, 2010 10:01:38 AM