Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER)

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The United States Judiciary implemented a program called “Pacer” (“Public Access to Court Electronic Records”), to provide users with public access to case and docket information from Federal Appellate, District and Bankruptcy courts. Pacer offers user-friendly federal case information to any person, not only attorneys, with an Internet connection and previous payment of a fee. Pacer is an implementation of the E-Government Act of 2002 that states: “each court shall make any document that is filed electronically publicly available online.” The program is administered by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and is deemed to be the land marking program for U.S. courts’ information service. Indeed, experts predict in this electronic and environmentally conscious era, electronic access will be the only way to acquire federal and state case information. Following, there is a summary of the services offered by the Pacer program.

The Public Access to Court Electronic Records system allows users to get case and docket information online from Federal Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy courts. Pacer makes case files in more than 200 Federal Courts, including Bankruptcy Courts, are available over the web for a fee from any personal computer. PACER charges eight cents per page up to a maximum of 30 pages per document. However, the fee is waived under certain circumstances. Courts may waive fees for educational researchers, bankruptcy case trustees, courts, nonprofit organizations, and people using the courts who are unable to pay. At least 26 of 94 U.S. District Courts and 60 of 90 bankruptcy courts are now using online electronic systems for tracking some or all files, according to the Associated Press. Appellate courts will convert next year.

In some cases, you can get the whole case online, from the first motions filed to depositions to the judgment. Other information available online can include:

  • A listing of all parties and participants, including judges, attorneys, and trustees
  • A compilation of case-related information, such as cause of action, nature of suit, and dollar demand
  • A chronology of dates of case events entered in the case record
  • A claims registry
  • A listing of new cases each day
  • Appellate court opinions
  • Judgments or case status
  • Types of documents filed for certain cases
  • Images of documents entered into evidence

Even though Pacer has been in force for over four years, it is constantly evolving.  In fact, the Judicial Conference of December 2007 ordered important modifications to this program regarding privacy issues.   For instance, these federal case records may not display the following information: Social Security and taxpayer identification numbers, names of minor children, financial account numbers, dates of birth, and, in criminal cases, home addresses.

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