The technology in Wyoming’s state courts is reportedly in terrible shape, ranging from extremely outdated to nonexistent. Half the courtrooms lack adequate power, and 80 percent lack digital capacity for video and videoconferencing. In response, the state legislature has approved an increase in court fees to fund technological improvements. The affected fees are primarily “automation fees” associated with filing a case, and moderately increased monetary penalties for a felony conviction.
In April, attorneys for several watchdog groups filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, arguing that the court’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system overcharged the public for access to court records starting in April 2010.
The lawsuit seeks “an unspecified amount of damages that ‘are found to exceed the amount authorized by law,’ as well as attorney fees.” Court documents and further details on the suit from the class action attorneys can be found here.
I was notified by email that I am a member of the plaintiff class, based on periodic PACER research I have conducted since 2010. And I have been critical of high PACER fees in the past, especially when PACER is used purely for academic research. But this is a pretty silly lawsuit. The class action attorneys will make a tidy sum from any settlement, and the actual affected members will likely get nothing of consequence. I would much prefer to see the courts offer PACER as a free research service, or otherwise develop a sensible, tiered payment system.