Journalists who were denied a fee waiver to access federal court records online cannot appeal but may find success under new exemption guidelines, the 9th Circuit ruled Thursday.
Pursuing the federal Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) website typically costs 10 cents per page, unless you qualify for a fee exemption. Eligibility for the waiver is discretionary, but largely determined by the federal Judicial Conference of the United States with assistance from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.
Gollan and Shifflett argued that the policy notes allowed exemptions for members of the nonprofit media, but Ware was unconvinced. The journalists appealed to the 9th Circuit, but a three-judge panel dismissed on Thursday for lack of jurisdiction.
The denial is not appealable because it was an administrative order, not a judicial ruling, the panel found.
“The Administrative Office has no objection to Gollan and Shifflett’s reapplying in the district courts now that the fee schedule and policy notes have been revised,” he added.
O’Scannlain also wrote a concurrence to his own opinion to address a question left unanswered by the dismissal: “to whom does one go for review when an application for an exemption from PACER fees has been denied?”
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