A procedure for accessing full text judicial decisions free of charge on PACER — the U.S. federal courts’ database of court decisions and litigation materials — has been posted by Mark Rosch. The procedure has been recently discussed by Nick Moline of Justia.
Oddly, this procedure does not seem to be mentioned in the FAQ on the PACER Website.
This functionality appears to have been introduced in 2005, according to a 2005 announcement from the PACER Service Center. (HT @sglassmeyer.) However, this information does not appear to be readily accessible on the PACER Website. In fact, to date, the PACER FAQ does not appear to make any mention of the availability of PACER cases free of charge.
Posting this procedure in the PACER FAQ — where, one would think, most PACER users are likely to look for information about the costs of using PACER — would seem to be in the public interest, because such posting is very likely to reduce PACER users’ costs of retrieving judicial decisions from PACER, and to encourage more citizens to use PACER as a source of judicial decisions.
On a related note, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced yesterday that twelve U.S. federal courts will participate in a pilot project to enhance public access to the judicial decisions on PACER that are available free of charge. The decisions are to be made available through the Government Printing Office (GPO)’s FDsys system. This pilot project is a joint effort between the Judicial Conference of the United States and GPO.
For more on PACER, please see Stephen Schultze’s VoxPopuLII post, PACER, RECAP, and the Movement to Free American Case Law.