On Friday, September 11, Terry Martin (Texas/Harvard), Kumar Jayasuriya (Georgetown) and Erika Wayne (Stanford) delivered the Improve PACER petition to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and presented the petition to others in government.
The petition, signed at that point by 939 law librarians, legal scholars, government depository librarians and others, asks for improved accessibility, usability and authentication for PACER. In particular, the petition asks for free access to PACER in Federal Depository libraries, enhanced search capabilities, and authentication of filings with digital signatures.
Law school library directors from over one third of American law schools signed the petition. Almost every academic law library in the nation was represented in the petition, and academic law librarians represented the largest percentage of signatories. Some of the top names in the legal academy and leaders in technology are among the signers of the petition.
Many of the signers provided specific suggestions for improving PACER.
During the day, we briefed representatives from the GPO, LLOC and congressional staffers on the petition. We received lots of useful feedback.
In the early afternoon, we formally delivered the petition to senior officials at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The folks at the A.O. were very gracious; we spent an hour there, talking about the petition and about PACER in general. Officials from the A.O. explained that they are in the process of evaluating PACER, so the timing of the petition could not have been better.
On Friday, we advocated in D.C. for all law librarians and legal researchers, and it was fun change of pace. But, to have the most impact, the campaign for improving PACER has to start with each and every one of us. If you feel strongly about this, send an e-mail to your representatives in Congress or write a letter to the A.O. Blog and tweet about it.
The petition is still open. Please sign it if you haven’t already. We are close to our original goal of 1000 signatures, and more signatures show strong interest. When you do sign please provide specific recommendations.
We librarians are terrific at training and educating. Take a few minutes to talk to friends, fellow librarians (especially outside of law libraries), lawyers and professors, students and patrons and tell them all about PACER (and CM/ECF). Most importantly, tell them *why* PACER is important and vital and useful. Let them know why you signed the petition (or why you didn’t — it all matters).
Education, outreach and feedback from the law library community can and will make a difference in this arena. It just might not happen overnight. And, it won’t happen without sustained interest in improving PACER.
[Special posting, jointly authored by Terry Martin, Kumar Jayasuriya and Erika Wayne.]