Benefits of PACER

Bonnie Scucha points us toward an article from the federal courts describing the effects of PACER. PACER is the electronic access system that allows users to access and retrieve electronic copies of court files. The article reports that:

Hundreds of millions of pages of court documents retrieved online each year by customers who numbers are approaching 750,000. Less attention, however, has focused on PACER’s impact on court staffs.

“It’s definitely changed the way our office does business, and I think it’s been a change for the better,” said Monica Menier, clerk of the bankruptcy court in the Middle District of Louisiana.

“Back in the paper world, we constantly had law firm runners who came to the clerk’s office to make copies of case files. They’d have to drive to the courthouse, find a parking place, feed the meter, and pay 50 cents per copy. Helping them consumed a lot of staff time,” she said. “Those days are gone.”

David Weaver, clerk of court and court administrator in the Eastern District of Michigan, offers a similar assessment. “We once had 12 case-searching terminals in a public area of our office, but eight of those terminals are gone. Very little walk-up business remains. We don’t have file clerks anymore.”

I just wish that our courts in Illinois would realize the benefits of allowing us to have remote electronic access to court files. I consider it a terrible shame that it is much easier for me to retrieve a document from a federal court file in Seattle, Texas, or New Jersey, than it is for me to retrieve a document from DuPage County, where I practice regularly.

2 thoughts on “Benefits of PACER

  1. I am kind of tired of the whining…the Federal Courts are NOT the State Courts. Sorry. Rules are different and, more important, caseload is different. PACER has been around for…oh, how long…15+ years. I remember when it was a bulletin board service. PACER was paid for by the FEDS and their BUDGET. PACER makes the Feds $$$ by using FEES.

    Illinois is not in the same position as the Feds or even other States. Look at our budget process going on right now…

    The Court has a policy in place that says you can see your own documents online…but it is the counties in Illinois that have to find the $$$ to put a system in place that will allow all attorneys to login and see only their own documents.

    Just because you’re able to jump headlong into tech doesn’t mean the whole world has the $$$ to follow

  2. Given that all aspects of the world are moving to digital, the courts must face the question of whether they are joining the rest of the digital world, or whether they are going to remain mired in the 19th century.

    I personally, would rather practice law in a progressive rather than a regressive state. The reality is that it costs money to do anything. Right now, it costs untold thousands or even millions of dollars (in Cook County’s case) to handle, file, store, and manage the paper documents. The problem is not that we don’t have the money, it is that we are spending it on the wrong things. It’s all a matter of priority and right now, Illinois’ priorities are about 15 years behind the times.

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