For years, we've talked about the many problems with PACER
, the horribly designed and managed electronic court records system that the federal court system uses here in the US. Beyond being clunky, buggy, horribly designed and slow -- it's also expensive. With some exceptions, it's 10 cents per page you download, and also 10 cents per search. As many have noted, this almost certainly violates the law concerning PACER, which says that the Judicial Conference can only "prescribe reasonable fees… to reimburse expenses incurred in providing these services." And yet the fees go way, way beyond what's needed to maintain the (again, horrible) system which they refuse to update. Instead, it's used for lots of other things. And, as many people note, it's something of a travesty that all of these public records are locked up, rather than being made available. Even more ridiculous is that when people hack around this system, such as with the open RECAP project to free up PACER documents, courts freak out
. Or, when people like Aaron Swartz try to use free access to PACER to free up its documents, they end up being the subject
of an FBI investigation for computer hacking.
Aaron Greenspan, who runs an open court records site called Plainsite
(and who is currently engaged in an unlikely-to-succeed lawsuit arguing that PACER should be free
), has noticed
that PACER is also shoving old cases down the memory hole
so they will no longer be available. In a brief announcement on August 10th, PACER's website announced that a bunch of cases would "no longer be available."
Now, there have always been some cases not on PACER, but to actively start removing
a bunch of cases, including many that are fairly recent (CAFC cases from just two years ago?!?) seems ridiculous and excessive. Yes, PACER is horribly designed and managed, but it's not like the storage costs for some old PDFs is that high. Especially as storage keeps getting cheaper and cheaper. Does someone down at the Administrative Office of the US Courts want me to send them an external 2 TB hard drive? They run about $100 these days...