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.
...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.