Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

PACER Calms Hysteria, Restores Pulled Archives

Way back in August, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) folks over at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced that a selection of dated federal appeals court files, and one California-based bankruptcy court's inactive files would be pulled from the system, as they were incompatible with an ongoing upgrade.

Many people were upset about the deletion of important court records, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy wrote a stern letter to the Administrative Office, which responded this week with some welcome information: The "deleted" records were only taken down temporarily and will be restored by the end of October, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Which Records Were Pulled? Nothing You Care About

Here's the full list of courts that were affected:

  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (cases filed prior to January 1, 2010)
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (cases filed prior to January 1, 2008)
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (cases filed prior to January 1, 2010)
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (cases filed prior to March 1, 2012)
  • U.S Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California (cases filed prior to May 1, 2001)

But, here's the incredibly important clarification from the AOUSC's response (via WSJ) to Leahy's letter (via ABA): "This limited disruption of electronic access in five courts involved docket sheets for some closed cases, not any filings, opinions, or other documents, and not any materials relating to open cases."

And, if for some reason you really needed the docket sheets, you can always contact the court or hit up a third-party research service like our dear corporate cousins at Westlaw.

Histrionics About a Few Docket Sheets

Of course, this might all be the fault of the Administrative Office. Their announcement was a bit unclear, which led Sen. Leahy and others to think that entire cases were being pulled en masse, without plans for restoration.

In reality, this was a temporary takedown due to a system upgrade that will supposedly bring a single sign-on for all PACER courts (finally!). That's helpful, but PACER still sucks. If you're a regular user, you know just how awful and dated the system is. We've talked about a few third-party tools that make it better (and cheaper), but really, a full overhaul is badly needed.

Related Resources: