Settlement Talks ‘Productive’ in PACER Fees Class Action

The parties to a putative class action lawsuit claiming that the federal courts’ PACER system routinely overcharges for document downloads have asked the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for more time to engage in settlement discussions, agreeing that discussions so far have been productive.

A scheduling order had required that the parties complete their preliminary settlement discussions by March 1. In a joint status report filed yesterday, the parties reported that they had agreed to continue their preliminary settlement discussions until April 14 and to report back to the court no later than April 21.

“Based on the technical complexity of the issues and the productive nature of these discussions, the Parties respectfully request additional time to engage in such discussions,” the report says.

The lawsuit filed by Bryndon Fisher of Seattle against the U.S. government claims that the formula used by PACER to calculate per-page download charges is faulty and that it resulted in PACER overcharging him $37 over two years. The putative class action alleges others were also overcharged.

The formula is used by PACER to calculate charges for HTML documents, such as docket reports, case reports and search results, as opposed to PDF documents. It calculates page length based on the number of bytes extracted, using the formula 4,320 bytes equals one billable page.

An investigation of these fees by computer scientists found that “systemic error” in PACER’s billing system causes it to count the bytes in the case caption five times if the caption is more than 850 characters long, Fisher claims.