PACER – Public Access to Court Electronic Records – has existed for some 20 years. Prior to PACER, lawyers and parties received court orders via regular old snail mail. But, with PACER, we would receive those orders via fax and then via email. PACER seemed like a good price, because it did not send a bill if the PACER charges were below $15. But, it turns out the provider of those records over-charged its users. According to a class action lawsuit, PACER which charged up to $3 per document at 10 cents per page was too much. Even though the charges were maxed out at $3 per document, no matter how long the document, the charges were much higher than the actual cost pf providing those copies.
Three non-profits brought the class action: Alliance for Justice, National Veterans Legal Services Program and the National Consumer Law Center. In a 2018 ruling, a federal district court said fees from PACER public records should not have been used for expenses related to anything other than online filing and downloading copies. In 2020, the Federal Circuit affirmed that ruling.
The court has already lowered the PACER fee to $30, meaning a user who incurs less than $30 in a billing quarter will not incur a charge.
Under the terms of the class action, all persons who have used PACER from 2010 to 2018 will receive a refund of at least $350. The user does not need to register his/her claim to receive that refund. See ABA Bar Journal report here.