Tell The Courts to Improve PACER
One way to promote broader public access to the public record is to use RECAP to share documents with others. A complimentary approach is to tell the U.S. Courts directly what should change. Recently, Stanford Law Librarian Erika Wayne launched a petition to “Improve PACER,” which suggested several changes:
- Provide document authentication
As the raw materials of adjudication become digitized and disseminated online, we must have some means of knowing that they are genuine. This is a dilemma that RECAP faces in helping users to trust the documents they download.
- Lower costs, improve interfaces
Our ultimate goal is to remove PACER’s paywall entirely and free the database up for third parties to build interfaces. But in the meantime, it would certainly benefit the public to gain less expensive access to the law through more useful interfaces. The petition recommends that the U.S. Courts reduce the transaction costs of access, and make that access more usable.
- Free access from Federal Depository Libraries
The Federal Depository Library Program has served the American public for decades by providing member libraries with collections of federal records at no cost. There are about 1,250 libraries nationwide. The U.S. Courts experimented with free access to PACER from 16 of these libraries recently, but in 2008 the program was discontinued. The petition calls for universal implementation of free access in these libraries.
Erika will deliver the petition to the Administrative Office of the Courts in the near future. If you support these goals, consider signing the petition.