Court Records Disappear from PACER

On August 11th, Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) deleted records from several federal courts from its online database with little notice, once again spotlighting how PACER obstructs public access to court records. PACER is maintained by the Administrative Office of the US Courts and charges 10 cents for each page of public court documents downloaded. The deleted files, hosted on platforms incompatible with PACER's planned upgrades, will now only be available by request from the individual courts and requesters will likely be stuck with an even higher price tag.

Several organizations are also working to liberate the records from the pay-walled system and recover the deleted files. The Free Law Project and Center for Information and Technology Policy power RECAP, an internet browser extension that allows PACER users to donate documents they purchase on PACER to a public database. Public.Resource.org, the Free Law Project, and the Internet Archive sent letters to the Chief Judges of the districts impacted by the upgrades, asking them to make the deleted data available to Public.Resource.org to post publicly.

Public documents should not be stuck behind a paywall. The Chief Judges should make these records available to the public online, and the Administrative Office of the US Courts should commit to make its electronic database free and open to the public and ensure that any upgrades preserve the public's online access to court records. 

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