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Law Professors, Librarians, and Think Tankers Praise RECAP

2009 August 17
by recapthelaw

We’ve been getting a ton of helpful feedback from users over the weekend. We’re grateful for all the supportive emails, comments, and tweets we’ve received. We’re also grateful for the bug reports and feature requests we’ve gotten. We need this kind of feedback to make RECAP better.

Most of the questions we’ve received are are now answered by the Frequently Asked Questions section of our about page. Stay tuned for some upcoming blog posts where we’ll address some of these questions in more detail. But first, we wanted to highlight some more of the commentary that RECAP’s release has generated.

James Grimmelmann, a law professor at New York Law School who has done some great writing on public access to the law, gives RECAP this generous endorsement:

The great part about this is that because the Archive is providing the server space for free, every RECAP user is saving the court system work. Each time you download through RECAP, you avoid having to go through PACER’s servers at all. So yes, RECAP will mean a decrease in PACER’s revenues, but it also means a decrease in the things those revenues need to pay for. It’s an all-around good thing. It saves attorneys, researchers, and citizens money. It saves the government computer resources. And it makes the law just a little bit more free and accessible.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

Ryan Singel of Wired calls RECAP “a pretty good hack,” and urges the judiciary to drop its paywall. The Lawyerist blog says that RECAP is a “brilliantly-conceived tool to liberate public records from PACER.”

RECAP seems to be especially popular among law librarians. Erika Wayne, a law librarian at Stanford University, writes of RECAP: “Be impressed. Very impressed.” We also got a favorable write-up from the University of Wisconsin law library and a mention from the Georgetown law library.

RECAP is also popular among DC-area think tanks. Heather West at the Center for Democracy and Technology calls RECAP “exactly the kind of project that we need” to promote judicial transparency. Jerry Brito of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, an early advocate of online transparency, calls RECAP “ingenious.” And we got a mention from Jim Harper of the Cato Institute.

Finally, we were particularly happy to get coverage from the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal blog. Practicing lawyers are the heaviest users of PACER, so it’s extremely helpful to have RECAP covered by influential legal publications.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. August 17, 2009

    Practicing lawyers are the heaviest users of PACER, so it’s extremely helpful to have RECAP covered by influential legal publications.

    Transparency is fundamentally critical for the simple person, also, e.g. myself. Do not underestimate the importance of their perspective and requirements for access to public records.

    Spent several hours on the phone today with the administrative offices of the federal courts in Washington. Spoke with both the technical administrator of PACER and with the federal court’s public affairs officer. Both spoke freely.

    There was some contradiction on a couple of issues to what RECAP has presented within its Web content versus what both parties with the administrative offices indicated. That was to be expected, perhaps. However one issue was profound in my view … on why the federal court shut down its public access project through public libraries.

    The federal court system is, apparently, actively engaged in seeking comments and suggestions on how PACER and records access can be improved. Contact the Office of Public Affairs, 202.502.2600 for further information.

    To complete total and free access to the courts’ records, PACER funding will have to be allocated by Congress. This is a must.

    Several things that I firmly believe that the federal court system is very receptive until and if PACER becomes directly funded by Congress:

    1. Eliminating fees for access to court dockets on any federal case.
    2. Incorporating e-Mail notification to non-parties on any specific federal case filings.
    3. Raising the yearly PACER allowance for non-attorneys, currently ten dollars per year. One hundred dollars per year sounds reasonable to me.
    4. Enforcing redaction requirements as required by current F. Civil R. on filings.
    5. Automatic digital signatures applied by the clerks to all ECF filings, orders, judgments, etc. Use of self signed digital signature for each district is viable. DoD for example uses self signed digital signatures and does not rely upon a certificate authority to generate them.

    The last item, I believe is something that RECAP could actively help by supplying a white paper on the methods and technology necessary to accomplish such a task.

    Regardless of what happens, Princeton and the RECAP project have, already, made a positive impact to affect a change.

    Thank you.

  2. RSS User permalink
    August 21, 2009

    the RSS feed for this blog does not load. it spins and spins and never loads. Please resolve this problem.

  3. August 22, 2009

    Hi RSS User, I just did a test-subscription to RECAP and it loaded fine for me. Is it still giving you problems? What RSS reader are you using?

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