« Law Review Articles, Not Worth the Paper Printed on for Addressing Issues Confronting the Judiciary | Main | AALL on the AALL Vendor Liaison Issue: "AALL vendor liaison would provide more legitimacy for CRIV" »
June 17, 2010
What PACER Fee Revenue Finances
"EPA (Electronic Public Access) funds are collected solely via PACER fees, and are expended on a variety of programs. One of these expenditures is the PACER program itself, but many other expenditures are not," writes Steve Schultze, Associate Director of the Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy in What Does It Cost to Provide Electronic Public Access to Court Records?
Schultze's working paper, Electronic Public Access Fees and the United States Federal Courts’ Budget: An Overview, provides the following details:
By 2009, the list of programs supported by PACER fees was further expanded, and expenditures on the non‐PACER items increased. “In fiscal year 2009, the Judiciary plans to use $106.8 million in EPA collections and prior‐year carryforward to fund public access initiatives including the following:
- Public Access Services and Applications $17.7 million;
- Telecommunications $8.7 million;
- EPA Equipment $1.3 million;
- CM/ECF Development, Operations and Maintenance $33.4 million;
- Courtroom Technology Allotments for Maintenance/Technology Refreshment $25.8 million;
- Electronic Bankruptcy Noticing $9.7 million;
- CM/ECF Allotments to Courts $7.5 million;
- CM/ECF state feasibility study $1.4 million;
- Violent Crime Control Act Notification $1.0 million; and
- Jury Management System Public Web Page $0.2 million.
In his working paper, he observes that "the only items that clearly relate directly to PACER are the $17.7 million and $1.3 million items, less than 18% of the total income from PACER fees." From the abstract of his highly recommend analysis:
This draft working paper examines the role of user fees for public access to records in the budgeting process of the federal courts. It sketches the policy principles that have traditionally motivated open access, describes the administrative process of court budgeting, and traces the path of user fees to their present-day instantiation. There has been considerable confusion about motivation and justification for the courts charge for access to PACER, the web-based system for “Public Access to Court Electronic Records.” Representatives from the Administrative Office of the Courts describe the policy as mandated by Congress and limited to reimbursing the expenses of operating the system. This paper identifies the sources of these claims and places them in the context of the increasing push to make government data freely accessible.
Schultze participated in an a Law.Gov Workshop Tuesday, June 15. The video will be available here shortly. [JH]