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U.S. Rep. Collins pushing for greater accessibility of court records
Doug Collins 2018
Doug Collins

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, introduced legislation earlier this month aiming to revamp the electronic court records system as well as making the documents free to access.

Collins and Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Chicago, introduced the Electronic Court Records Reform Act Feb. 13.

“Courts represent a cornerstone of our democracy. We expect them to deliver justice in public, open for any and all to inspect, and this goal can't be achieved when case filings and other documents are shrouded behind a paywall,” Collins said in part of a statement announcing the bill.

Current users of the Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, face a 10-cent-per-page fee.

The bill charges the director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to consolidate the case management and electronic case files system within two years of the bill’s enactment.

That system “shall use modern technology in order to improve security, data accessibility, affordability and performance” as well as minimizing “the burden on pro se litigants,” or people who represent themselves, according to the bill’s text.

The requirements for the system include making documents free to view, text-searchable and machine-readable.

“The American people deserve free access to federal court records, and courts deserve a modernized way of maintaining those documents,” Quigley said in a statement.

PACER celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013. According to a 2013 article on the U.S. Courts’ website, PACER and the case management and electronic case files system “provide online access to hundreds of millions of documents” to more than a million users.

The American Association of Law Libraries, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Government Accountability Project and 13 other groups signed a letter in support of the bill.

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