Victory For Public Access To Court Documents – Free Law Project

“On Monday, the court issued a thoughtful order unsealing the case and the various submissions. The court held that the plaintiff’s interest in sealing her case cannot defeat the presumption of public access to the case’s docket and its filings. Both Free Law Project and the court agreed that plaintiff’s concerns were significant, but that “a private litigant’s general concerns about reputational harm or negative impact to her employment prospects are not sufficient to counteract the public’s First Amendment right to these court filings.” Dec. 28, 2020 Order at 8….”

House Passes Bill To Make Federal Court Records Free to the Public – Reason.com

“The House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday, over the objections of the federal judiciary, to make access to federal court records free to the public. 

By a voice vote, the House passed H.R. 8235, the Open Courts Act of 2020, which aims to modernize PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records)—a clunky and frustrating database of federal court filings maintained by the Administrative Office of the United States Court—and eliminate its paywall.

The database has long been the bane of lawyers, reporters, researchers, and citizen sleuths. PACER charges 10 cents a page for searches, court dockets, and documents, capped at $3.00 per document. Users who accrue less than $30 in fees every three months do not have to pay anything, which keeps casual users from being charged. But for others, costs can quickly pile up and there’s no alternative. Reason uses PACER on a daily basis to monitor civil rights lawsuits and report on the criminal justice system. As Seamus Hughes, a terrorism researcher who scours PACER for new prosecutions, lamented in Politico Magazine last year, “My work at The George Washington University’s Program on Extremism generates a quarterly PACER bill that could fund a coup in a small country.”

 

Even the Justice Department has to pay to use PACER. Between 2010 and 2017, the DOJ spent $124 million on federal court records….”

The federal judiciary should allow free access to public court records | R Street

“In September, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Open Courts Act of 2020 (H.R. 8235) by voice vote. The bipartisan bill—co-sponsored by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.)—seeks to knock down the current paywall around public federal court filings.

Today, the federal judiciary maintains online public court records, called the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system (PACER, for short). But, to view these records, PACER forces users to register for an account, provide credit card information, and then charges users 10 cents a page to download and view most public filings….”

Judges oppose new online database with free access to court records – The Washington Post

“Leaders of the federal judiciary are working to block bipartisan legislation designed to create a national database of court records that would provide free access to case documents.

Backers of the bill, who are pressing for a House vote in the coming days, envision a streamlined, user-friendly system that would allow citizens to search for court documents and dockets without having to pay. Under the current system, users pay 10 cents per page to view the public records through the service known as PACER, an acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records….”

 

Free the California Jury Instructions: Call for Legal Practitioner, Law Professor and Law Librarian Support for a California Rule Change Proposal

“We at the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law are representing Public.Resource.Org in a petition to the Judicial Council of California to clarify that California’s jury instructions are in the public domain and free for public use. We’re requesting support for the petition from legal practitioners, law professors and law librarians. Please consider signing the statement below; thank you!

Your name, title, and institutional affiliation will accompany the below statement as a signatory. Your affiliation is for identification purposes only; we will make clear that it does not imply endorsement by your firm, law school, or other institution….”

Prof. Lawrence Lessig – JurOA 2021 Interview – YouTube

“Interview mit Prof. Lawrence Lessig zum Thema “Open Access für die Rechtswissenschaft”….

“The most important thing that can happen is that young people begin to rally together to say to their professors: What the hell are you doing? Why would you support a system that assures the developing world does not have access to information? Why don’t you make a commitment to publishing your work in a way that guarantees access by everybody? And if you don’t believe there should be access by everybody, then defend that principle. We shouldn’t allow the laziness of the ways things have been to block this fundamental opportunity we have right now to build an infrastructure of open access that guarantees that information and science and knowledge can be spread broadly and cheaply.”

A court decision in favor of startup UpCodes may help shape open access to the law | TechCrunch

“For the past three years, UpCodes and its founders have been entangled in a copyright lawsuit filed by the International Code Council (ICC). Though both focus on the building industry (specifically, the codes architects and builders need to follow), the lawsuit deals with an issue that has wider ramifications: Is it possible to copyright the law, or text that carries the weight of the law?

Founded in 2016 and backed by investors including Y Combinator, UpCodes  offers two main products, a database of state building codes that is available on a freemium basis, and UpCodes AI, which scans 3D building models for potential code violations. UpCodes’ building code database is at the center of the lawsuit, because it contains material on which the ICC claims copyright. UpCodes says its software simplifies the complex and often expensive process of code compliance, one of the most important parts of the building process. But the ICC, the nonprofit organization that develops the model code used or adopted for building regulations by all 50 states, claims UpCodes impacts its ability to make revenue and continue authoring new code.

In May, UpCodes won a major decision in the case when United States District Judge Victor Marrero ruled that its posting of building codes was covered by public domain and fair use (a copy of Marrero’s ruling is embedded below)….”

Education Groups Drop Their Lawsuit Against Public.Resource.Org, Give Up Their Quest to Paywall the Law

“This week, open and equitable access to the law got a bit closer. For many years, EFF, along with co-counsel at Fenwick & West and attorney David Halperin, has defended Public.Resource.Org in its quest to improve public access to the law — including standards, like the National Electrical Code, that legislators and agencies have made into binding regulations. In two companion lawsuits, six standards development organizations sued Public Resource in 2013 for posting standards online. They accused Public Resource of copyright infringement and demanded the right to keep the law behind paywalls.

Yesterday, three of those organizations dropped their suit. The American Educational Research Association (AERA), the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME), and the American Psychological Association (APA) publish a standard for writing and administering tests. The standard is widely used in education and employment contexts, and several U.S. federal and state government agencies have incorporated it into their laws….”

Native American Treaties Now Online for the First Time | National Archives

“Hundreds of Native American treaties have been scanned and are freely available online, for the first time, through the National Archives Catalog. Also, in partnership with The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC), these treaties and extensive additional historical and contextual information are available through Treaties Explorer  (or DigiTreaties). …”

Official Code of Georgia Annotated now a Github Repo | Boing Boing

“You might think a Supreme Court ruling in our favor would be enough to get governments to change their tune, but Georgia hasn’t done a thing, nor have other states that try and build walls around their laws. The State doesn’t publish their code, and the awful site they refer you to is run by Lexis, only provides the unannotated unofficial code of Georgia, and subjects you to onerous terms of use, an awful design, and a total lack of respect for laws that mandate access to the visually impaired. which Public Resource is spending thousands of dollars per year with the official vendor to get copies of the laws of Georgia, Mississippi, and a handful of other states. Georgia alone is costing us $1,324 per year!

 

What we get for our yearly subscription is a quarterly CD-ROM for each state that only runs on Windows. You can, with some difficulty, export the titles of the code as Microsoft Word files in .rtf format. Well, we now have 8 quarterly releases of code extracted as .rtf files and hosted on the Internet Archive, with transformations to Open Document format. These .rtf files are not the greatest. Any links have been removed and there is no structure—lists, for example, are not lists, just ordinary paragraphs.

Today, I am delighted to announce that we’ve taken the next step. Working with my friends at Unicourt and their crack engineering team in Mangaluru, India, we’re releasing today a github repository that transforms those .rtf files into beautiful html. The RTF parser is the code that does the transformation. It puts structure, metadata, and accessibility back to the code. Any pointers to other code sections are marked, tables of contents now work properly, and we’ve tagged references to other resources such as the U.S. Code, Code of Federal Regulations, and other federal and state materials so that over time these will become more and more useful. A second github repository holds the Georgia transforms and over the next year, we’re going to be adding Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. We’re also hoping to add an xml diff capability, so we can generate redlines. If you just want to browse the html files, you can also view them on the Internet Archive. For example, here is Title 1 of the OCGA, current as of August, 2020. Just for good measure, we also added opinions of the Attorney General and the court rules….”

New Bill Calls For An End To PACER Fees, Complete Overhaul Of The Outdated System | Techdirt

“The perennial make-PACER-free legislation has arrived. If you’re not familiar with PACER, count yourself among the lucky ones. PACER performs an essential task: it provides electronic access to federal court dockets and documents. That’s all it does and it barely does it.

PACER charges taxpayers (who’ve already paid taxes to fund the federal court system) $0.10/page for EVERYTHING. Dockets? $0.10/page. (And that “page” is very loosely defined.) Every document is $0.10/page, as though the court system was running a copier and chewing up expensive toner. So is every search result page, even those that fail to find any responsive results. The user interface would barely have been considered “friendly” 30 years ago, never mind in the year of our lord two thousand twenty. Paying $0.10/page for everything while attempting to navigate an counterintuitive interface draped over something that looks like it’s being hosted by Angelfire is no one’s idea of a nostalgic good time.

Legislation attempting to make PACER access free was initiated in 2018. And again in 2019. We’re still paying for access, thanks to the inability of legislators to get these passed. Maybe this is the year it happens, what with a bunch of courtroom precedent being built up suggesting some illegal use of PACER fees by the US Courts system. We’ll see. Here’s what’s on tap for this year’s legislative session: …”

Enabling complete PACER RSS feeds in the Eastern District of California

“We are writing to urge the District Court for the Eastern District of California to fully enable an existing feature of the PACER system: RSS feeds of all recent cases and filings in your jurisdiction. I am the executive director of Free Law Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Oakland, California that works to make the U.S. legal system more fair and efficient. I am writing on behalf of a broad coalition of individuals and organizations that believe enabling this simple feature is important to transparency and public understanding of court activity….” 

Circuit Panel Rebuffs Judiciary on Excessive PACER Fees

“The federal judiciary cannot fund its pick of courtroom technologies with the fees drawn in by a system that makes court records publicly available, an appellate panel ruled Thursday. 

PACER, short for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, was created over 30 years ago to just what its name suggests, charging 10 cents per page, or $3 per item, since its last fee hike in 2012….”

Australian Law Librarians’ Association :: Open Educational Resources and Scholarship in Law and Legal Studies: the State of Play

“This session will discuss key developments in the worlds of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Access in research. Steven Chang and Thomas Shafee from La Trobe University will provide an overview of the key benefits and challenges/solutions in the context of Law and Legal Studies, situated within the bigger picture of recent developments in open access publishing and open data. This will lay the foundations of how law librarianship can be future-ready in the rapidly changing teaching and research landscape….”