The Judicial Conference doubled the quarterly fee waiver for users of the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system (PACER) from $15 to $30. This will result in more than 75 percent of the system’s users paying no fee in a given quarter. PACER provides the public with instantaneous access to virtually every document filed in every federal court. No tax dollars are expended for the operation and maintenance of PACER. Only those who use the system pay for it. There are approximately 2.5 million registered users for the PACER system, which contains more than one billion case documents.
Access to case information via PACER costs ten cents per page and the cost to access a single document is capped at $3, the equivalent of 30 pages. Litigants receive a free electronic copy of each document in their case, the public has free access to case information at the courthouse, and judges’ opinions are available for free. In addition, courts may exempt individuals or groups, such as indigents, pro bono attorneys, academic researchers, and not-for-profit organizations from paying the fee.
As a result of these measures, approximately 87 percent of all PACER revenue is attributable to just 2 percent of users—large financial institutions and major commercial enterprises that aggregate massive amounts of data for analysis and resale. The new quarterly fee waiver will take effect January 1, 2020 and covers PACER use after that date.