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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. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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