Tuesday, August 18, 2009


PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) has received a lot of negative press lately for not providing free public access to federal court docket information. Well, that isn’t true anymore . . . anyone with Internet access can now retrieve Pacer dockets 100% free from Courtport, LLC.

With the announcement of RECAP last Friday, Courtport, LLC opted to announce today the launch of its free federal court docket retrieval site, Free Court Dockets.

What's the difference between RECAP and Free Court Dockets?

The difference is simple -- RECAP is a plug-in for the Firefox web browser that makes it easier for users to share documents they have purchased from PACER, the court's pay-to-play access system. With the plug-in installed, users still have to pay each time they use PACER, but whenever they do retrieve a PACER document, RECAP automatically donates a copy of that document to a public repository hosted at the Internet Archive; however, with Free Court Dockets, the user bypasses PACER entirely and hass access to full court dockets from any U.S. district civil, criminal, or bankruptcy court, as well as from the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Claims, and the U.S. Court of International Trade.

For full details about Free Court Dockets, please read the press release here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

RECAP: A New & Better way to access Public Court Records

So, what is RECAP? RECAP is a free extension for Firefox that improves the experience of using PACER, the electronic public access system for the U.S. Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts. It helps you give back by contributing to a public archive hosted by the Internet Archive. It also saves you money by showing you when free documents are available.

When a RECAP user purchases a document from PACER, the RECAP extension helps her automatically send a copy of that document to the RECAP archive. And RECAP saves its users money by notifying them when documents they’re searching for are already available for free from the public archive.

Whos is behind RECAP? RECAP is a project of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. It was developed by Harlan Yu, Steve Schultze, and Timothy B. Lee, under the supervision of Prof. Ed Felten.

There is a video on the RECAP website that provides a quick demonstration of RECAP in action, and RECAP is currently looking for beta testers. If you are interested, check out their privacy policy and then head to the installation page to get started.

I think that RECAP is inspired! It is a great way to open up public court records that would otherwise be unavailable because of the PACER “pay to play” restrictions. Everyone should have access to public records.