Class Action Accuses Judiciary of Overbilling for PACER Records Access | National Law Journal

The federal judiciary has long faced criticism for charging fees for online access to public court records. A new class action claims a computer error caused the system to overcharge users. The Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, system charges 10 cents per page to view documents. The system’s users—lawyers, litigants, reporters (The National Law Journal uses PACER) and the public—also pay 10 cents per page to view case dockets that list the documents and other case information. The system uses a formula based on the amount of data in the docket to calculate the equivalent number of pages. Plaintiff Bryndon Fisher, a Washington state resident represented by lawyers from Terrell Marshall Law Group in Seattle and Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe in San Francisco, claims that a computer error causes the system to overcount certain information in the docket—specifically, the section of the page that lists the name and number of the case, the parties, and the lawyers involved. By overcounting that information, Fisher says, the system adds at least one additional 10-cent charge. Those extra dimes can add up, according to Fisher, who claimed that over the past two years he’s paid $37 in overcharges. A spokesman for the federal judiciary declined to comment on Monday. Noah Schubert of Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe said in an interview that they hired “experts with advanced degrees in computer science” to analyze PACER’s billing system after hearing reports of overcharging. Those experts created models that showed that the system was incorrectly billing users, he said. “The statutes indicate that they’re only allowed to charge what is reasonably necessary to the public and so while there’s certainly a lot of debate about whether there should be charges to the public for using the system in the first place, we believe at the very least they should charge what they say they charge,” Schubert said. In two largely identical lawsuits filed on Dec. 28 and 29 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Fisher said he pulled up 184 case docket reports over the past two years and paid $109.40 for that access. He claims that if the judiciary had properly calculated the data in those reports, he should have only owed $72.40.

Source: Class Action Accuses Judiciary of Overbilling for PACER Records Access | National Law Journal


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