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PACER Court Records ‘Can Never Be Free,’ Judge Says

House Committee on the Judiciary Hearing held September 26, 2019 – The Federal Judiciary in the 21st Century: Ensuring the Public’s Right of Access to the CourtsStatement by The Honorable Audrey G. Fleissig</a, >U.S. District Judge, Eastern District of Missouri

“…Based on the experiences of California and the FBI, upgrading the current Judiciary filing system, as directed by the bill, could easily cost $2 billion to accomplish and could take more than 10 years to complete. Significantly, the legislative proposals do not include a funding mechanism to finance consolidation costs, thus creating a huge unfunded mandate which would adversely impact the Judiciary’s ability to create the consolidated system Congress is seeking. Allowing unlimited free access to PACER could create system risks. In addition to funding concerns, we have identified other policy and technical issues thatmust be carefully considered. The elimination of the PACER fee, coupled with the legislation’s requirement that CM/ECF be consolidated into a single system, could have a negative and severe impact on the speed and reliability of the system. The current fee-based system, which requires users to register and allows traffic t o be monitored, prevents users from downloading unlimited and voluminous content – unless they are willing to pay for that access. Completely free access for all members of the public (who could download as much information as they want with no cost constraints) could dangerously strain the system’s capacity and performance…”

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