May 20, 2022

Report: “Federal Circuit Hammers Government on Use of PACER Fees”

From Bloomberg Law:

A Federal Circuit panel pressed a Justice Department attorney on how the U.S. government spends fees it collects through its electronic federal court record system during argument in a case over whether the charges are too high.

Three nonprofits are arguing in the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that fees the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts charges for the Public Access to Court Records (PACER) violate federal law because they’re higher than what’s needed to operate the system.

The government argues that the law doesn’t put such strict limits on how it uses the money, but the judges appeared to reject that broad reading of the statute.

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From The Washington Post

A key legal question for the court is how to interpret a 2002 change in the law that permits the judiciary to charge “reasonable fees” for electronic access to records “only to the extent necessary.” The law allows PACER fees to “reimburse expenses incurred in providing these services.”

Judge Todd M. Hughes said the language is “hard to parse” and not a “model of clarity.” He asked the attorney for the nonprofits whether the fees could cover the underlying cost of maintaining the infrastructure of the online database.


Among those backing the nonprofits’ call to limit fees is the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and more than two dozen media organizations, including the New York Times, Politico and BuzzFeed. Most news organizations are not eligible for a fee waiver.

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See Also: Statement from Fix the Court

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.