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Federal court fees, PACER charge going up

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The policy-making body of the federal judiciary wants U.S. judges to limit how often they seal entire civil cases. In addition, the public access fee for all records is rising and other court fees are going up.

On Tuesday, the Judicial Conference of the United States voted on various administrative and policy issues impacting the nation’s federal court system, something that happens twice a year. Chief Judge Richard Young in the Southern District of Indiana is one of the 26-members of that conference.

For the first time since 2005, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) fee is rising by 25 percent, from 8 cents to 10 cents per page. The judiciary’s electronic records programs – PACER and the Judiciary’s Case Management/Electronic Case Filing system – are funded entirely through user fees, and the increase is needed in order to continue and even expand online record access.

Implementing the 2-cent hike is expected to take at least six months, and local, state, and federal government agencies will be exempt from the increase for three years because of the impact it could have on public access to court records. PACER users who don’t accrue more than $15 in charges per quarterly billing cycle would not be charged a fee – a five dollar increase from the current exception amount. A total of 75 to 80 percent of all PACER users will pay no fee.

Other court fees are also rising because of inflationary pressures, including record searches and retrievals as well as attorney admission fees. The increases are expected to generate about $10.5 million more in fee revenue for fiscal year 2012.

Another cost-sharing move implemented Tuesday involves bankruptcy judges in new courthouses or construction settings, where those jurisdictions with three or more bankruptcy judges can use one courtroom for every two judges. In situations where a location has an odd number of judges, the number of courtrooms allotted will remain at the next lower whole number. This follows similar policies in the past two years for senior judges and magistrates.

Aside from those fee hikes, the Judicial Conference urged greater public access for civil cases by instructing judges to follow a new policy on sealing files only in extraordinary circumstances as a last resort. Any order sealing an entire civil case should contain findings justifying that action, and the seal should be lifted when the reason for sealing has ended, the policy says. Judges should first explore narrower alternatives, such as blacking out information or sealing particular documents, and the conference endorsed modifying the case management system to remind judges to review cases under seal each year.

No one case or jurisdiction prompted the change, but the conference members said there was a consensus that federal judges have for awhile been sealing entire civil cases too often.
 

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  1. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  2. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  3. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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