A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled Saturday that the federal judiciary improperly spent some $200 million of the $920 million in PACER fees it collected from 2010 to 2016.
In so ruling, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle rejected the principal arguments of both the plaintiffs and the defendants in the case. The plaintiffs had argued that the judiciary could recoup PACER fees only to the extent necessary to cover the total marginal cost of operating the PACER system. The judiciary had argued it could use PACER funds for anything related to “dissemination of information through electronic means.”
Judge Huvelle disagreed with both positions. Instead, she found that the judiciary improperly used PACER fees to fund certain programs related courtroom technology, a web-based juror management service, a victim-notification program, and a program to facilitate public access to court documents by the state of Mississippi.
“The Court does not see how flat-screen TVs for jurors or those seated in the courtroom, which are used to display exhibits or other evidence during a court proceeding, fall within the statute as they do not provide the public with access to electronic information maintained and stored by the federal courts on its CM/ECF docketing system,” she wrote.
The full decision is embedded below. For further analysis, see:
- Judge Declares Some PACER Fees Illegal but Does Not Go Far Enough (Freedom to Tinker).
- Court Says PACER System Is Illegally Using Fees (Techdirt).
- PACER Fees Shouldn’t Fund Most Court Tech, Judge Rules (Courthouse News Service).