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Category Archives: Freedom of Information

The Free PACER Bill Will Save Money (Despite the CBO Score)

Via Patrice McDermott – “From Gabe Roth at Fix the Court Hi, folks. I want to keep everyone apprised of what’s going on with the Open Courts Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would modernize the federal judiciary’s court records system and make access to documents free (instead of the current $0.10 per page, which gets expensive fast) aka the “free PACER” bill. It passed Senate Judiciary in December and awaits floor action. [On September 26, 2022] the the CBO released its budget score, and it was mostly good with a little weird. The topline estimate is that “free PACER” would “generate savings of $343 million” over the next 10 years. That’s incredible. The math gets funny, though, on the other side of the ledger (building a replacement). For example, CBO said it’d take about 100 developers to upgrade the system and then another 40 to maintain it, costing in total $180 million over 10 years. But there’s no way you need that many people to work on a project of posting and retrieving static PDFs online. Not even close. The CBO also said the judiciary would need $82 million for hardware and software over 10 years, when posting a billion or two PDFs on the cloud for a decade should cost — no joke — closer to $2 million (p. 8). And the CBO estimated that the bill would lead to a loss of $101 million in tax revenue over 10 years, which I strongly disagree with, considering the booming legal tech industry. Trimming the fat from these numbers, you quickly get to a bill that is not just revenue neutral but a serious cost savings.

  • For more information, here’s analysis by the Free Law Project  and by Fix the Court and I’d be happy to answer any further questions on the bill, which I hope will see floor action during the lame duck.”

CREW urges Judicial Conference to implement judicial ethics rules

CREW: “The Judicial Conference—a national policymaking body for the federal courts…should implement a comprehensive prohibition on all federal judges and Supreme Court Justices owning or trading individual securities and develop a strong code of conduct for the Supreme Court. In a letter sent [September 20, 2022], CREW urges the Judicial Conference to act swiftly to… Continue Reading

The Data Liberation Project

Jeremy Singer-Vine: ” The Data Liberation Project is a new initiative I’m launching today to identify, obtain, reformat, clean, document, publish, and disseminate government datasets of public interest. Vast troves of government data are inaccessible to the people and communities who need them most. These datasets are inaccessible. The Process: Identify: Through its own research,… Continue Reading

Enhancing Transparency of Airline Ancillary Service Fees

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – Enhancing Transparency of Airline Ancillary Service Fees: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing a rule which would significantly strengthen protections for consumers by ensuring any fees charged to seat a young child with an accompanying adult, change or cancel a flight, or travel with a first checked bag,… Continue Reading

The history of book bans—and their changing targets—in the U.S.

National Geographic: “From religious texts and anti-slavery novels to modern works removed from school libraries, here’s how the targets of censorship have changed over the years. Mark Twain. Harriet Beecher Stowe. Judy Blume. William Shakespeare. These names share something more than a legacy of classic literature and a place on school curriculums: They’re just some… Continue Reading

California abortion access

Abortion is legal and protected in California Abortion remains safe, legal, and accessible in California, whether or not you live in the state. This website has current and accurate information about how you can access abortion services in Californi – Find a provider California protects your privacy – This website is a safe space for… Continue Reading

Russia spent millions in secret global political campaign, U.S. official says

Washington Post: “Russia has secretly funneled at least $300 million to foreign political parties and candidates in more than two dozen countries since 2014 in an attempt to shape political events beyond its borders, according to a new U.S. intelligence review. Moscow planned to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more as part of its… Continue Reading

OpenSecrets launches new tool to track ballot measures across the country

“OpenSecrets has launched a new tool to track ballot measures across the country as part of a continuing effort to integrate state level data following the merger with the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in Politics.  The tool features an interactive map that will help users explore ballot measure data… Continue Reading

Could the Internet Archive Go Out Like Napster?

Slate: “Two and a half years ago, the Internet Archive made a decision that pissed off a lot of writers—and embroiled it in a lawsuit that many netizens fear could weaken the archive, its finances, and its services long into the future. In March 2020, as bookstores and libraries joined other businesses in closing their… Continue Reading

Is Open Access Equal Access? PACER User Fees and Public Access to Court Information

Moreland, John, Is Open Access Equal Access? PACER User Fees and Public Access to Court Information (2021). “Is Open Access Equal Access? PACER User Fees and Public Access to Court Information,” DttP: Documents to the People, 49, no. ¾ (Fall/Winter 2021): 42-48, Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 484, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4194979 “Our country… Continue Reading

Before the Presidential Records Act of 1978, presidents owned their papers

Washington Post: Now all presidents, including Donald Trump, must turn them over to the National Archives. “Until the 1970s, former presidents could do pretty much whatever they wanted with their presidential papers. That often was a problem. Some papers “were purposely destroyed, while others fell victim to chance destruction,” concluded a 1978 congressional study. “Others… Continue Reading

How Often Do the FBI and the Department of Justice Seek Search Warrants and Subpoenas?

TRAC: “From January through June of this year, federal prosecutors made 883 applications to federal judges to authorize search warrants and issue subpoenas or a summons, according to the most current government records. A long list of federal agencies were the requesters, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation topped the rolls with 309 requests, 35… Continue Reading