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Monday, October 06, 2003

Courts On A Subscription Model

Why are there user fees for PACER?

In 1988, the Judiciary sought funding through the appropriation process to establish the capability to provide electronic public access services. Rather than appropriating additional funds for this purpose, Congress specifically directed the Judiciary to fund that initiative through the collection of user fees. As a result, the program relies exclusively on fee revenue.

[Link added, from the FAQ for Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), the case and docket information retrieval service for Federal Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy courts.] At $.60 per minute OR $.07 per page, I wonder if the PACER system loses money, breaks even, or turns a profit? (I'm sure this information is available somewhere...?) Regardless, I'm guessing that because a system is in place at the Federal level—even if it may not be the least cumbersome and/or least expensive available given current technology—state courts may wind up leading the way in the use of RSS as a streamlined information distribution format. Rory Perry (Clerk of the Court, Supreme Court of Appeals for West Virginia) has been at the vanguard of movements in this direction, and now offers an early draft of a resource page for courts on weblogs and syndication. [Via Ernie Svenson] Bravo Rory, I'm pointing friends in the California court system your way.

(Note too that according to Rory's sidebar, as of 10/03/03 the top Google result for courts public access is the PACER Service Center Home Page.)

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