December 3rd, 2020

Is Senator Portman’s “Pacer Bill” About to Find Its Way Into a New Funding Package?

Senate Bill 2064, the Electronic Court Reform Act of 2019 (the “Act”), was originally introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in July 2019. Now, it may be finding its way into a new funding package.

Basically, the passage of the Act would eliminate all Pacer fees and unify the filing systems of all federal courts.  It should be noted that the Portman bill, as well as a companion bill in the House, may lead to increased bankruptcy filing fees, including a fee for POC filing according to Senate staff following the issue.

The Act’s objective is to streamline the Electronic Records, the “Pacer” system, which controls access to virtually all documents filed in the federal court system.  The Act would require consolidation of the many and varied electronic records systems kept by each federal judiciary into a single system to be utilized by all courts.

All documents would be text-searchable to enhance search capabilities. Further, unlike the current system that requires separate fees for access and review or reproduction of a filed document, the Act would assure free public access.

All digital audio and visual court recordings would also be available on the system.  Most courts now require a separate request and fee to obtain a copy of any audio recording.

In addition, consideration would be given for linking to external websites to the extent practical. Creation of the new Pacer system would be required to be completed within two years of passage of the Act.

To view the proposed bill, click here.