Judicial Conference doubles PACER fee waiver, adopts model workplace dispute resolution plan

The United States Judicial Conference has doubled the quarterly fee waiver for PACER users, a move the courts say will result in more than 75% of users paying no fees in a given quarter.

The federal courts announced Tuesday that the quarterly fee waiver for the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system will increase from $15 to $30. The change will take effect Jan. 1.

Currently PACER houses more than one billion documents accessed by 2.5 million registered users, who pay a maximum of $3 per document. About 87% of all PACER revenue is attributable to about 2% of its users, the courts said — large financial institutions and major commercial enterprises that analyze and resell “massive amounts of data.”

Also on Tuesday, the 26-member Judicial Conference announced its approval of a new model employment dispute resolution, or EDR, plan designed to “simplify and expand the options for addressing wrongful workplace conduct” in the federal judiciary.

“The revised model EDR plan … is the latest step in the Judiciary’s continued commitment to establishing and maintaining an exemplary workplace,” the conference said. “The new plan includes definitions and examples of wrongful conduct; three flexible options for resolving conduct issues; flowcharts that explain EDR rights and options; and training requirements for EDR coordinators and judiciary employees.”

The 27-page model plans defines “wrongful conduct” as including discrimination; sexual, racial and other discriminatory harassment; abusive conduct; and retaliation. It also notes that wrongful conduct can be verbal, nonverbal, physical or nonphysical.

The plan offers three options for reporting such conduct: informal advice, assisted resolution and a formal complaint process. The reporting options generally flow through a designated EDR coordinator.

Additionally, the model plan requires courts and employing offices to adopt and implement an EDR plan; designate an EDR coordinator and alternate; file all records of proceedings with the coordinator; advise employees of their rights; and provide an annual report on alleged violations and resolutions with the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

Several provisions in the model EDR plan were derived from recommendations from the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group, which was created at the behest of Chief Justice John Roberts to “ensure an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee.”

The working group submitted a report to the Judicial Conference in June 2018 with recommendations for addressing workplace conduct issues. Then in March, the Judicial Conference used those recommendations to amend the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees and the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act Rules.

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