Courts to Restore Access to Electronic Records
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) has announced that it is working to restore online access to closed case files that were removed from its digital warehouse in August.
The case files, from the 2nd, 7th, 11th, and Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals as well as the Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, had been available through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), a public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information online. PACER is maintained by the AOUSC and is a popular resource for attorneys, librarians, researchers, and the public. The system is funded through a fee structure that includes charging 10 cents per page of search results within the systems and 10 cents per actual page of public court documents.
On August 10, PACER suddenly eliminated access to the case files, citing changes in its architecture stemming from the implementation of a new Electronic Case Files (ECF) system by the federal judiciary. According to the AOUSC, the electronic case files in the five affected courts were not compatible with the new system being installed by the judiciary.
The removal of access to the files sparked a backlash from journalists, librarians, government watchdogs, and other groups dedicated to unfettered access to public records. In response to this criticism, the AOUSC committed to restoring access later this year.
“The Administrative Office is working to restore electronic access to these cases by converting the docket sheets in these cases to PDF format, which will allow us to make them available in PACER,” David Sellers, assistant director for public affairs at the AOUSC, told the Washington Post. “This process will be completed in the four appellate courts by the end of October. We are also working to provide a similar solution for the dockets on the legacy system in the California Central bankruptcy court.”
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