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NVLSP Wins Class Action Challenging Government’s Excessive Fees for Public Access to PACER

Released 8/10/20 | Tags: Class Actions

NVLSP Wins Class Action Challenging Government’s Excessive Fees for Public Access to PACER


WASHINGTON—On August 6, 2020, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) prevailed before a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in a class action brought on behalf of the thousands of organizations and individuals who have been overcharged by the government since 2010 to gain access to all federal court case dockets using the PACER electronic database.  In the case styled National Veterans Legal Services Program v. United States, the Court of Appeals agreed with NVLSP that the PACER fees were excessive and that they were being wrongly used to fund government programs not authorized by Congress.  The Court also indicated that these fees represented an impediment to the First Amendment right of access to courts.

In its 32-page opinion, the Court stated, “If large swaths of the public cannot afford the fees required to access court records, it will diminish the public’s ability ‘to participate in and serve as a check upon the judicial process—an essential component in our structure of self-government.’”  The Court also found that PACER fees were only supposed to be used to cover expenses in services related to providing public access to the federal court electronic docketing information.  As a result of the Court’s decision, it appears that the government will have to repay the excessive portion of the fees to those who paid fees for access to PACER since 2010.

“We are delighted that the judges recognized the merits of our case. Excessive PACER fees pose an unnecessary impediment to anyone needing access to the court system.  Moreover, PACER fees are intended for specific use, they are not an open revenue source for the courts, “ said National Veterans Legal Services Program Executive Director Bart Stichman.

The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veterans service organization that has served active duty military personnel and veterans since 1981. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to its 22 million veterans and active duty personnel by ensuring they have the benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVLSP has represented veterans in lawsuits that compelled enforcement of the law where the VA or other military services denied benefits to veterans in violation of the law.  NVLSP’s success in these lawsuits has resulted in more than $5.2 billion dollars being awarded in disability, death and medical benefits to hundreds of thousands of veterans and their survivors. NVLSP offers training for attorneys and other advocates; connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help when seeking disability benefits; publishes the nation's definitive guide on veteran benefits; and represents and litigates for veterans and their families before the VA, military discharge review agencies and federal courts. For more information, go to www.nvlsp.org.

Media contacts:
For NVLSP: Patty Briotta, office 202-621-5698, patty@nvlsp.org

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