Class Action Certified for Pacer Users

Posted on: January 25th, 2017 by Steve Larson

A class of Pacer users was certified by a Washington, D.C. federal judge this week.  The suit had been filed by three nonprofit groups alleging the government is illegally making a profit on the court records service.  The judge ruled the three nonprofits could adequately represent all PACER users.

The three nonprofits are the National Veterans Legal Services Program, the National Consumer Law Center and Alliance for Justice.  U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted the motion for class certification in the suit alleging PACER’s fees violated the E-Government Act.  The suit seeks a refund of any overcharges.

The E-Government Act provides that PACER users should only be charged “to the extent necessary” in order to reimburse the government for the “direct cost” of making the documents available.  In the complaint, plaintiffs alleged that the fees have increased twice since 2002.  The plaintiffs alleged that the judiciary spent most of the revenue from PACER not on the system itself, but on courtroom technology, websites for jurors and other elements of the judiciary, noting that in 2012, the judicial system spent $12.1 million of PACER revenues on PACER itself, and more than $29 million on courtroom technology, according to the complaint.

The case is National Veterans Legal Services Program et al. v. United States of America, case number 1:16-cv-00745, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.