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Here’s the Problem with the Feds Profiting from Court Filings

Released 5/16/16 at Wired | Tags: Class Actions

According to the Constitution, the law is by, of, and for the people. Congress makes laws, the president enforces them, the courts interpret them. Yet if you want to read federal court documents—to challenge those laws, or analyze them, or simply see them in the making—you must pay. By the page. Federal courts keep their documents locked within a paywalled database called PACER, an acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records. To access documents that are by definition public record, you must pay 10 cents per page. Because a great many people—lawyers, journalists, academics, plaintiffs and defendants—need to view these records, PACER is tremendously profitable. The database isn’t free to run, and some argue that justifies charging people to access it. But a class action lawsuit claims the profits far outweigh those costs.

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