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. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well