San Franciscans: Please Join Carl Malamud's Campaign To Help Free Up Court Documents

from the join-now dept

For many years, we’ve discussed various Carl Malamud projects to help make government information and documents more widely available (especially ones that are locked up for no good reason). One particular target of his is PACER, the court’s electronic document system that is ridiculously cumbersome to use and costs an insane amount to use for even pretty mundane tasks. Earlier this year, we wrote about his National Day of PACER Protest, designed to be held on May 1st (this Friday). At the time, we suggested everyone sign up for a new PACER account (because, as if to demonstrate how stupid the PACER system is, you have to wait for the system to snail mail you your username and password before you can start using your account) to download a few documents on May 1st (PACER waives your fees if you download less than $15 in fees per quarter).

However, as we noted, this was just part of a three-pronged approach to convincing the courts to free up the PACER system. Another part was reaching out to judges to exempt certain courts and certain documents from PACER’s charges. As part of that, Malamud is trying to send judges some beautiful postcards, and he’s asking for people to help him do so. Here are just two of the postcards:

If you’re in San Francisco this Friday, May 1st, please try to make your way to the Internet Archive’s headquarters at 300 Funston Avenue, where you can send a post card (or two, or six, or 60) to Chief Judge Sideny Thomas of the Ninth Circuit appeals court, asking him to free up access to PACER for several of the courts in the 9th circuit.

I am writing to you for help. If you are in San Francisco on Friday, May 1, from 8 AM to 5 PM, I’m hoping you can stop by the Internet Archive at 300 Funston Avenue.

May 1 is Law Day, and I’m asking people to come in and write a brief postcard about why you think that access to PACER is important. More specifically, you’ll be writing a postcard to Chief Judge Thomas of the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in support of my request that the Court grant us free access to PACER for several courts in the Ninth Circuit. It would be a really big deal if the Court said yes, we’re trying to show public support in a way the judges can relate to.

You can also go and send your postcard directly if you can’t make it to the Internet Archive:

Clerk of the Court
Attn: Docket 15-80056
United States Courts of Appeals
James Browning Courthouse
95 7th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

This is a worthwhile and fun project. If you’re in San Francisco, please try to stop by. If you’re not, please consider sending your own postcard.

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Comments on “San Franciscans: Please Join Carl Malamud's Campaign To Help Free Up Court Documents”

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Anonymous Coward says:

And how are open records going to change things?

How about an effective court watching system? Because just knowing about the below and asking for action hasn’t resulted in anybody doing much of anything.

This gem has been circulating in my circles Clerk of the Courts charging money to let the court know an old court order is being violated

The gent at the center of the bankruptcy ‘gave himself 425K of personal loans’ and drove his company into a $1 M bankruptcy back in the 1980’s. He agrees to sell the firm and have nothing to do with whomever buys the assets. The bankruptcy ends in April and by September he’s back to running a business using a name just like the 1980 vintage name. Runs THAT into the ground and starts again a few years later. Runs THAT into the ground, goes to jail for a year for tax evasion AND gets a Judge to issue an order in 1999 that he’s to keep business records in whatever business he’s in charge of.

With the 1999 court order in effect he gets sued in 2013 with an eventual judgement of almost $2 million. No where does the 2013 Judge (milwaukee 2013cv2944) reach back to the 1999 order (milwaukee 1998cf980159) when he rules on a contempt order about turning over the books. Nope. Instead fines a man who owes $1+ million in back taxes $1000 a day.

In the bankruptcy court the gent in question demands the return of “his car”. Yet the car is titled by the state in someone elses name. The bankruptcy judge’s reaction: “There seems to be some dispute over the ownership of the car.”

Even with open records and the above events, without an effective system to watch the courts how is the outcome going to change from “No change” to “pay us money to have no change”?

How, exactly, is the system gonna change with the open records?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: And how are open records going to change things?

Just because a given effort won’t magically make everything better doesn’t mean the action is worthless. If that were true, then it would be impossible to change anything ever.

Access to court records is an undeniably important thing to have. Opening PACER up goes a long way to accomplish that. That’s a worthy goal.

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