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Judiciary Committee Advances Legislation to Remove PACER Paywall, Increase Accessibility to Court Records

Committee also unanimously advances U.S. Attorney nominee

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee today advanced S. 2614, Open Courts Act of 2021, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and cosponsored by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, by voice vote.  This legislation—more commonly known as the “Free PACER” bill—would modernize the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts’ electronic record system and eliminate the PACER paywall that forces the public to pay more than $140 million annually to access court records.

Key Durbin quotes on the bipartisan Open Courts Act:

“Presently, litigants in federal court and members of the public have to pay to get access to public federal court records, like filings and briefs, through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, system.  Big law firms have no problem, but these fees may be too expensive for individuals, small businesses, small law firms, and non-profits to track litigation that impacts them.  And for some low-income individuals, the cost of accessing records can be so high that it may prevent them from going forward with a meritorious lawsuit.”

“The PACER system is not keeping pace with reality or technology.”

“I believe this bill improves access to justice by eliminating the PACER paywall.”

The Committee also unanimously advanced the nomination of Dawn N. Ison, to be United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.  If confirmed, Ison would be the first Black woman to be a U.S. Attorney in Detroit.

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.