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Coffee Break Listen: Open PACER!

Steve Schultze, Princeton University, Associate Director at the Center for Information Technology Policy, gave this talk as part of a series of 3-minute lightning talks on transparency hosted on Capitol Hill by the Advisory Committee on Transparency, a project of the Sunlight Foundation.

  • My Bill to #OpenPACER in memory of #aaronsw — Open for Comment and Available on Github, by Steve Schultze. Freedom to Tinker (February 1, 2013). (video and transcript with links and downloadable slides).

    …the courts offer electronic records through the PACER web site, which charges for search results, docket lists, and documents.

    …PACER is making a killing, with $120 million dollars in revenue for 2012. Even with a highly inefficient system architecture, they only manage to spend about $20 million dollars on PACER expenses per year. Where does the rest of the money go? They spend it on other stuff.

    This is illegal. In 1992, Congress passed a law saying that the courts could charge only to recoup costs. Ten years later, Congress strengthened that law and said that it expected the courts to move to a free system. PACER fees have increased 42% since then.

    …Open PACER is a bill that, once and for all, mandates that the courts provide free access to our public record. The bill is open for comment at openpacer.org. It is written in GPO-compliant Legislative XML, which anyone can edit and submit for incorporation via a tool called github.

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