Warning from Brennan Center about federal court data base, a/k/a PACER


Numerous Court Records Deleted from Database

The government-run Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service has deleted “numerous” court documents, report Joe Miller and Kim Gittleson for BBC News. An August 11 announcement on PACER.gov explained that “architectural changes” rendered case management systems for four judicial circuits and one district bankruptcy court “incompatible with PACER,” stating that “the judiciary is no longer able to provide electronic access to the closed cases on those systems.” Case documents for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd, 7th, 11th, and Federal Circuits, as well as the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, are no longer accessible online if filed before dates ranging from 2001 to 2012, depending on the court. Included in those lost files are cases adjudicated by Justice Sotomayor, who served on the 2nd Circuit from 1998 to 2009. “It’s ridiculous,” said Carl Malamud, the founder of non-profit Public.Resource.Org. “An historical database is essential to the legal profession, and for that matter, to journalists or students.” “It’s fundamental that justice is not done behind locked doors, but in public view,” continued Malamud. Miller and Gittleson write that PACER “has long faced criticism for its arcane structure, and for the fact that it charges for each record accessed.” Miller and Gittleson note that hard copies of deleted case files remain available directly from the courts for a fee of $30, through a process they say “can take days.”

Warning from the Brennan Center that applies to my advice about doing research in Pacer, the federal court data base. Nice picture of the Supreme Court, though.

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