Thursday, March 25, 2010

Keeping Pace with PACER

Last week, the Judicial Conference of the United States approved several steps to improve PACER, the federal courts’ system for Public Access to Court Electronic Records. Among the highlights:
  • While congressionally-mandated user fees will remain stable at $0.08 per page (capped at $2.40 per document), PACER users will not receive a bill until they accrue $10 in charges during a quarterly billing cycle (an upgrade from the previous fee waiver of $10 per year).

  • With approval from the presiding judge, digital audio files of hearings may be downloadable through PACER for $2.40 each. Previously, these recordings had to be obtained through the individual court clerk’s office for $26.00.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts also recently announced an upgrade to PACER, with the debut of the new PACER Case Locator. This search service allows users to identify which court’s PACER database contains materials from a specified case, as well as create customized displays of federal cases by case type, jurisdiction and/or date range. In a few months, the Locator will completely replace the old Party/Case Index, which offered similar search capability in a much less sophisticated interface.

For academic uses by the Duke Law community, the library has a PACER login which may be used; contact the Reference Desk for more information. To learn more about researching court dockets and filings, check out our research guide to Court Records & Briefs. The library’s final Research Madness workshop on Monday, March 29 will also discuss options for finding court documents.