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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.”

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