In April, I mentioned a class-action lawsuit three nonprofits had filed over PACER, the government electronic records system for retrieving legal documents pertaining to court cases. The suit contends that PACER’s document retrieval fees are excessive, and are illegally being used to fund other projects beyond simply paying for PACER’s expenses.
Now Techdirt reports the suit has survived an attempt by the government defense to have it thrown out. The government complained that it duplicated a similar case filed elsewhere, and that the plaintiffs hadn’t first complained to PACER operators over the fees as PACER’s terms of service stated they were supposed to.
However, Judge Ellen Segel Huevelle has ruled that the cases are concerned with different issues and do not affect each other. This suit covers PACER billing practices in general, whereas the other hinges on PACER’s definition of a “page” for per-page billing purposes. She also noted that complaining to PACER operators was only required for billing errors, whereas the suit concerns the legality of billing that is strictly intentional on PACER’s part.
I’m glad to see that the case has survived this first challenge. It’s still in the early stages, but it will be interesting to see how things turn out as it moves forward.
At the risk of sounding elitist: I am a light-to-moderate PACER user who pays a few bucks a month for it. I’d rather pay the same amount for a decent service than get PACER’s existing aggravating, anachronistic UX for free. People should not have to pay eye-watering amounts of money for WestLaw or LexisNexis accounts to have a decent UX for researching court documents.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it will improve even if they win the suit, given they’re already spending most of the proceeds elsewhere.