SFL Friday — PACER and the Pussycat

I think everyone besides Judge Altonaga pretty much takes PACER for granted nowadays.But there was a time — in the dark ages, ‘natch — when you had to actually run to the Courthouse to “pull a file” and copy a pleading or motion.Let me correct that — you had to send some lowly associate to go to the Courthouse and do all that, but still!(And phone messages were on little slips of paper!)

Perhaps that’s why I found this article by the former chair of the Judicial Conference’s Court Administration and Case Management Committee to be so interesting.

Apparently some smart people are studying how to upgrade and improve PACER:

Nearly 40 percent of PACER’s revenues are generated by less than 1 percent of its active accounts, and the vast majority of the remaining PACER accounts incur less than $500 in fees per year.

What happens to the funds collected each year from PACER users? In compliance with statutory language, the money is used to pay the expenses of maintaining and improving the public access program. Moreover, all uses of electronic public access fees are approved by Congress through annual submission and approval of the judiciary’s financial plan.

Certainly PACER and the services it offers can be improved. That is why we are conducting a yearlong comprehensive program assessment to identify potential enhancements to existing services and new public-access features that could be provided to PACER’s varied users. User surveys will be a big part of the assessment, and this input will help shape a final report, expected by June.

Functionality is an important component of the assessment. We already know that usage of PACER’s U.S. Party/Case Index application continues to grow, with more than 200,000 searches daily. The application has been running in its current format since 1999, and needs updating. Its search functionality is limited, but the judiciary is working on a new version that will provide enhanced search capabilities and result formats that can be easily imported to other programs for analysis. The new version is being tested, and it should be available to users soon.

Furthermore, we continue to explore ways to enhance already available services. A pilot program is under way to evaluate the expansion of PACER to include access to digital recordings of court proceedings in district and bankruptcy courts.

In other words — iPACER!(I hope no one else has thought of this).

BREAKING — if you’re interested in what Barbra Streisand thinks of Citizens United, you can find her trenchant legal analysis here.

Oy — such a voice, but dear you’re not helping…..

Let’s see, it’s Friday and as usual I have packed my necessary windsurfing items — chewing gum, reading material, pulled pork — you know, the basics.

It’s always best to be prepared.

Have a great weekend!