PACER (previously) is a paywall that charges you every time you look up the US's public domain Federal court records; for years, activists have railed against its existence, liberating key documents from it and putting them online for free, calling on Congress to eliminate it altogether.
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The official party line from Taser -- who make less-lethal electrical weapons as well as a range of police body-cameras and other forensic devices -- is that its weapons don't kill ("no one has died directly from the device’s shock"). Reuters reporters who heard this claim decided it was highly suspect and took action, mining America's court records to find "150 autopsy reports citing Tasers as a cause or contributor to deaths," and that those deaths were disproportionately inflicted on "society’s vulnerable – unarmed, in psychological distress and seeking help" -- all told, they found 1005 deaths in which Tasers were implicated. Read the rest
US court records are not copyrighted, but the US court system operates a paywall called "PACER" that is supposed to recoup the costs of serving text files on the internet; charging $0.10/page for access to the public domain, and illegally profiting to the tune of $80,000,000/year. Read the rest
In the age of Internet, discussions about the federal government and its functions are informed by and rely on our unprecedented access to federal documents. Anyone can freely view public records online, such as proposed Congressional legislation
and presidential executive orders
. Accessing public court documents, however, is a bit trickier. As Katherine Mangu-Ward wrote for the Wall Street Journal
in 2011, "no aspect of government remains more locked down than the secretive, hierarchical judicial branch."
Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "On May 1 (Friday) at the Internet Archive in San Francisco, I'm going to be running a 'PACER Polling Place' from 8am-5pm. I hope you'll stop by and give me a hand." Read the rest
PACER is America's all-but-inaccessible public database of court records. Carl Malamud explains the problem—and the solution: you.
A large and very up-to-date archive of Aaron's government files, extracted through Freedom of Information Act requests. Read the rest
Here's a recent talk given by Princeton's Steve Schultze where he argued for the right of all Americans to access federal court records online at no charge.