Federal Circuit Affirms Limits on How Government Uses PACER Fees

Written August 7, 2020

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on August 6, 2020, affirmed that the government can use PACER revenues for operating the electronic court record system, but not for unrelated court technology projects. Nat’l Veterans Legal Servs. Program v. United States, Fed. Cir., No. 19-1081, 8/6/20.

In April 2016, plaintiffs—three national nonprofit organizations that have downloaded public court records via PACER—brought a class action against the United States, alleging that the fees “exceeded the amount that could lawfully be charged” under § 1913 Note because the fees did not reflect the cost of operating PACER alone. The Government argued that the law doesn’t put such strict limits on how it uses the money.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the lower court, finding that § 1913 Note limits PACER fees to the amount needed to cover expenses incurred in services providing public access to federal court electronic docketing information.