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PACER documents to be restored, court says

by Greg Munno on September 19th, 2014

A spokesperson for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) told the FOIA Project today that “full electronic access” to more than 800,000 cases removed from PACER will be restored. PACER is the electronic court document management and retrieval system relied on by thousands of researchers, lawyers, journalists and others.

The news was first announced in an article this afternoon by Andrea Peterson, who has been covering the issue for The Washington Post, and later confirmed by FOIA Project and other groups.

However, there is still confusion about what exactly was removed from PACER and what exactly will be restored. The documents were removed without warning in August because, according to the AOUSC, they were in a format that prevented the records from migrating to a new PACER  that is being developed.  The  cases removed were closed cases from four appellate circuits and the bankruptcy court for the Central District of California and comprise a fraction of the 33 million cases in the system.

Although AOUSC officials were able to peg the number of affected cases at around 800,000, they were not able to say exactly how many documents or pages those cases encompassed. You can read more about what was removed and the consequences for researchers, lawyers and journalists in our Sept. 5 report.

In an interview with AOUSC staff today, a spokesperson said that only the dockets from the removed cases will be available electronically. But she also said that all of  the documents that were removed would be restored. Asked about the apparent contradiction, she said that it was her understanding that the dockets were the only electronically available information on the cases available before the removal because the cases were old and closed. However, at least some of the cases would have been fairly recent. For example, the U.S. Court Appeals for the Federal District had all of its cases removed prior to March 1, 2012.

The spokesperson said the dockets for the appellate courts would be back online by the end of October, and that the bankruptcy court dockets would be restored after work on the appellate cases is complete.

The FOIA Project will continue to follow this story and share additional information as it becomes available.

From → PACER, Reports

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