PACER Search Fees Soon a Thing of the Past

Posted On Friday, June 10, 2022

Takeaway: Used by the federal courts for case management and filing, PACER is outdated and expensive for the general public. Help is on the way.

According to a newly released report by the Judicial Conference of the United States, policymakers have approved a plan to eliminate docket search fees on PACER, the federal courts’ electronic court record and filing system. Although the plan would eliminate docket search fees, the cost to download documents is proposed to remain the same, $.10 per page, with a $3 cap per document.

The fees collected this fiscal year from PACER use is estimated to be $142 million. Although any reduction in revenue is of course a concern to the judiciary, most would agree that accessing public court records shouldn’t be cost prohibitive to anyone. The only option at present for indigent federal criminal defendants who cannot afford to pay PACER fees is to request a fee exemption through the individual court where the case presides.  

The judiciary is currently at work building a more modern case management and electronic filing platform to replace PACER. How long the roll out may take is unclear. In the meantime, as Congress considers the Open Courts Act of 2021, a bill that would remove the charges for downloading the actual court documents, hope remains high that costs for accessing court records will soon become a thing of the past.