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PACER for Free?

A bill currently before the House of Representatives, Electronic Court Records Reform Act of 2018, H.R. 6714, 115th Cong. (2018), proposes that the Case Management / Electronic Case Files system for the federal courts be consolidated, and states be given the option of participating in the new system.

The bill introduced by Representative Doug Collins of Georgia would make filings on the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system available to the public free of charge at least five days after they were filed. The bill also requires that all documents be text searchable and 'machine readable'. The provision for machine readable documents apparently contemplates court filings being in the XML, HTML, or JSON formats which a browser or software can analyze and prepare tables of content or outlines from.

The bill would also allow external web sites to link directly to PACER filings. Would this allow for links to PACER filings to be added more easily than it currently possible with LinkBuilder? See the Tip of the Night for December 1, 2016.

Audio and visual filing are also to be posted to the new system, and "]t]he system shall provide search functions for public use". Hopefully in the future we'll have the option to run Boolean searches across all documents filed with the federal courts.

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