PACER turns 25

December 10, 2013
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PACER is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The service, Public Access to Court Electronic Records, was approved in September 1988 by the Judicial Conference of the United States. Goodbye paper, hello computer.

PACER, coupled with the Case Management/Electronic Case Files management system that started in the 1990s, has made life easier for attorneys, judges and clerks. Lawyers now could file a document after the courthouse closed and still make the deadline. Paper was no longer king in clerk’s offices, thanks to the online access and case management.

Reporters also appreciate the ability to access court records and activity at all hours of the day.

“PACER was one of the most significant progressive steps in the implementation of technologies in the courts,” said Michael Kunz, clerk of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in a release from the United States Courts. “It brought information from the clerk’s office to desktop computers located in law offices, government agencies, business entities and the news media. Stakeholders in the justice system overwhelmingly endorsed it as an efficient system.”

Kuntz’s court became one of the first sites for PACER.

He also said if it weren’t for PACER and the Case Management/Electronic Case Files management system that started in the 1990s, court staff would have been quickly overwhelmed by the caseloads of the last 25 years.

Back in the day, users had to use dial-in telephone modems to receive docket information and see thumbnail case summaries on their computer screens. Case documents were still only available at the courthouse. How times have changed. Now attorneys can pull up this information on smartphones and tablets from anywhere with an Internet connection. In the beginning, only a handful of courts used these services. Now, every federal court does.

Administrators are working on modernizing the CM/ECF system and PACER service to make it more user-friendly as well as preserving electronic dockets and opinions for posterity.
 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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