Tag: Fees

I Still Want to Abolish the Patent Court

Technically, it’s full name is US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and I have little good to say about this institution.

For that matter, neither does the US Supreme Court, which has taken to overruling the C.A.F.C.’s extreme views on IP on an almost routing basis.

But today, I wholeheartedly approve of their ruling stating that the federal judiciary must cease using the PACER document access system as a cash cow for the courts:

The federal judiciary is overcharging for public access to online court records, an appeals court ruled Thursday in a decision that could result in lower fees to search and download case documents.

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said affordable access to public records is critical for oversight and transparency in the nation’s court system.

“If large swaths of the public cannot afford the fees required to access court records, it will diminish the public’s ability ‘to participate in and serve as a check upon the judicial process — an essential component in our structure of self-government,’ ” wrote Judge Todd M. Hughes, who was joined by Judges Alan D. Lourie and Raymond C. Clevenger III.

The ruling does not eliminate the paywall for the service known as PACER, an acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records. But the decision upholds a District Court finding that the current 10 cents per page charge is “higher than necessary to operate” the system. The court limited fees to the amount needed to cover the cost of providing access to docket information online.


The lawsuit was filed in 2016 by three nonprofit organizations. The National Veterans Legal Services Program, National Consumer Law Center and Alliance for Justice claimed that the dime-per-page fee unlawfully exceeded the cost of running the system. The cost of storing data has declined since the inception of the courts’ electronic repository in the 1980s, while PACER fees have increased.

The administrative office has used the money to pay for projects such as flat-screen TVs for jurors, to send notices to bankruptcy creditors and to fund a study by Mississippi for its own court system.

This is a good decision.
More generally, any time that an enforcement agency derives income directly from its basic operations, it is corrosive to good governance.