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Class Action Over ‘Excessive’ PACER Fees on Appeal

Nov. 29, 2018, 11:03 AM

A class action over fees that the federal judiciary charges for electronic access to court filings is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

There are several hundred thousand eligible class members who have been charged excessive fees, according the lawsuit being litigated by the National Veterans Legal Services Program, National Consumer Law Center, and Alliance for Justice.

Fees for Public Access to Court Records, or PACER, are higher than what’s needed to operate the system, which isn’t allowed by the law that authorizes the judiciary to charge, they say.

Fees for downloading a copy of a filing run 10 cents per page, up to $3 per document. Several press advocacy organizations joined amicus briefs arguing for lower fees.

A federal district judge in March held that the judiciary used fees for impermissible reasons, such as courtroom televisions used for displaying evidence, while ruling that class members aren’t entitled to refunds. The plaintiffs and the Justice Department lawyers who are defending the government received permission from the Federal Circuit to appeal the ruling, which is a necessary step because the decision left some issues unresolved.

The nonprofits notified the district court judge about their permission to appeal Nov. 28. The Federal Circuit docketed the appeal Oct. 16.

The case is Nat’l Veterans Legal Servs. Program v. U.S., D.D.C., No. 1:16-cv-00745, notice of permission to appeal 11/28/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at