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Why free PACER access matters

A recent event shows why free access to the federal courts’ Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is important.

That event is Chrysler’s bankruptcy. This is an event of high enough interest that PACER itself chose to highlight their holdings of the Chrysler bankruptcy docket.

Perhaps highlight is too strong a word. To see anything you need a PACER account and be prepared to pay fees under these conditions (bolding mine):

Access to web based PACER systems will generate an $.08 per page charge. The per page charge applies to the number of pages that results from any search, including a search that yields no matches (one page for no matches.) The charge applies whether or not pages are printed, viewed, or downloaded.

If PACER access were free, any interested citizen could monitor the bankruptcy case for themselves instead of getting a filtered view from media. They could see how the company, the shareholders and the union were being treated in the process.

PACER will continue to generate documents of national interest as GM follows Chrysler into bankruptcy court. Congress ought to mandate free access to all of PACER. The cost to do is an infinitesimal portion of the money paid for auto industry bailouts.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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