Open Letter to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, part 1

Dear Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts,

Recently, a few of my librarian colleagues and I deployed a brief petition aimed at improving PACER.

Instead, I’d like to share with you some of the amazing comments that we have already gotten in our petition’s first week.  We have heard from librarians and lawyers and legal academics, and here is a sampling of the feedback:

Professor Howard Friedman (from University of Toledo College of Law) comments:
I would like to suggest that PACER also make it possible to create hyperlinks to opinions and major pleadings so blogs and websites can link to them.


Carl Malamud (of writes:
Access to primary legal materials is a foundational issue for the judiciary. We cannot be a nation of laws if the proceedings of our courts are distributed at high cost and with no certificate of authenticity.

Dawn Urquhart (of Canada) shares:
I value the content and only wish we had a similar resource in Canada. However, it is a very confusing database to use. I often have difficulty trying to identify the documents I need. The interface needs to be more user-friendly.

Ed Walters (of FASTCASE) suggests:
A few things would be really helpful: 1) Offer a bulk access, flat-rate license fee. Many would pay for bulk access and update. 2) Please do a better job identifying judicial opinions. Often not tagged or mis-tagged. 3) It would be great to unify PACER in a single web application instead of different apps for each court. Justia has a nice UI for this. 4) I would also support a re-rationalization of access fees so that they are proportionate to costs. I have no problem with fees to cover the costs of maintenance, or even fees to cover costs of modernization. . . .

Ellen Simmons (of Texas) writes:
As a Depository librarian, I strongly believe in free public access. Allowing Depository libraries to have free access to PACER would be another step to shore up our democracy. To echo Carl Malamud, in a nation of laws, the people should have access to the proceedings of our courts. That access should be authenticated, straightforward,and preferably free so as to be accessible to all.

Ryan Calo (of Stanford Law School, Center for Internet & Society) states:
Usability and transparency go hand in hand.

Margaret Leary (Director of the Law Library, University of  Michigan) comments:
The information in PACER was accumulated through the use of taxpayer dollars and should be freely available to the public, perhaps via the Federal Depository Library program. . . .

More comments to follow as we continue to add signatories to the petition.

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