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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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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