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Federal Judge Rules That Judiciary Is Misusing PACER Fees

On March 31, a federal district court judge in Washington, DC, held that the fees collected by PACER—the electronic records system of the federal court system—are being used for purposes not authorized by law. PACER has a complex fee structure, but simply described, it charges users 10 cents per page, with a maximum of $3 per document. The National Veterans Legal Services Program filed a class-action lawsuit challenging PACER’s fees, alleging that the law authorizing PACER to charge fees only permits it to charge “reasonable fees” necessary to cover the operation and maintenance of PACER itself. PACER actually makes significantly more money than is required to maintain the system, and the courts have used this windfall for such purposes as updating technology in courtrooms. [more]

Released 4/6/18 | Tags: Class Actions

Court ruling could extend disability benefits to thousands of injured veterans

Thousands of veterans previously denied disability benefits for pain issues related to their military service may now be eligible for that assistance, thanks to a federal court ruling this week. On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned a 19-year-old precedent used in more than 11,000 VA claims denials that stated veterans had to have a clear medical diagnosis connected to their pain in order to be eligible for those disability payouts. Advocates said the ruling could be life-changing for individuals who are unable to work because of service-connected injuries but excluded from veterans assistance because of medical technicalities. “This was an all-or-nothing issue,” said Bart Stichman, executive director and co-founder of the National Veterans Legal Services Program. [more]

Released 4/5/18 | Tags: Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Veteran's Benefits

Court says PACER fees misused

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has issued an opinion in the class action case National Veterans Legal Services Program, et. al., v United States (docket available here). In her opinion, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle said that the federal judiciary misused millions of dollars in PACER fees to fund programs that are not allowed. [more]

Released 4/5/18 | Tags:

Court Rules: No PACER Money for Court Tech

In what's being hailed as a win for the public, one federal court judge ruled (over the weekend) that the federal court system has been misusing the profits generated by the PACER and the CM/ECF system. The Saturday ruling in the National Veterans Legal Services Program v. U.S.A. case found that several programs and purchases funded by the profits generated by the PACER systems, which climbs into the millions annually, were improper. [more]

Released 4/5/18 | Tags: Class Actions

Court Victory for Vets: VA Can Now Award Disability Benefits For Pain Related to Military Service

The Federal Circuit’s decision in Saunders v. Wilkie overturned the 1999 precedential decision issued by the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that said VA had no authority to award benefits for pain alone, if the pain was untethered to a medical diagnosis explaining its cause. NVLSP partnered with pro-bono counsel, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP, on the case. They won the case on behalf of Gulf war veteran Melba Saunders, who served in the Army from November 1987 until October 1994. [more]

Released 4/4/18 | Tags: Class Actions

PACER Fees: Legal or No?

In the opinion recently filed on March 31, 2018 of National Veterans Legal Services Program, et al., v. United States of America, Judge Huvelle partially agreed that some of the fees that were being collected were indeed illegal, and she ordered that nearly $200 million may be returned to those who paid for PACER between 2010 and 2016. [more]

Released 4/3/18 | Tags: Class Actions

Fed. Circ. Says Pain Alone Can Support VA Disability Benefits

The Federal Circuit on Tuesday revived a U.S. Army veteran’s claim for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits stemming from knee pain, ruling that pain alone can be considered a disability. The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims misinterpreted a disability benefit statute when it ruled that Melba Saunders’ knee pain could not, in the absence of a specific diagnosis or other identified disease or injury, be considered the basis for benefits, a three-judge panel ruled in a precedential decision. [more]

Released 4/3/18 | Tags: Class Actions

Orrick Pro Bono Team Secures Important Federal Circuit Win for Disabled Veterans

Siding with an Orrick pro bono team’s arguments on behalf of a Gulf War veteran, a federal appeals court today established vital precedent for veterans seeking benefits for disabilities arising from their military service when the disability consists solely of pain. In Saunders v. Wilkie, the Federal Circuit unanimously rejected certain limits on disability benefits imposed for nearly two decades by the Department of Veterans Affairs, providing critical support to veterans who can now recover just compensation for pain-related disabilities. An Orrick team led by Mel Bostwick and Eric Shumsky, partners in the firm’s Supreme Court and Appellate Practice, along with co-counsel at the National Veterans Legal Services Program, secured the win for Gulf War veteran Melba Saunders. [more]

Released 4/3/18 | Tags: Class Actions

PACER Fees Shouldn’t Fund Most Court Tech, Judge Rules

Thirty years after federal courts began offering online access to litigation records through the PACER system, a federal judge ruled Saturday that fees paid by the public for such access cannot fund other courtroom technologies. The National Veterans Legal Services Program, National Consumer Law Center and Alliance for Justice brought the underlying challenge in Washington as a federal class action, accusing the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts of charging PACER users more than what was necessary to operate the system, in violation of the E-Government Act of 2002. [more]

Released 4/2/18 | Tags: Class Actions

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