Anyone who uses PACER, the the federal courts' system for electronic access to records, knows that it is cumbersome and hard to maneuver. And it's expensive. Because the database is not user friendly, the costs associated with searching PACER are higher than they need to be because users spend so much time trying to find what they need.
The ABA Journal recently opined on PACER's problem:
"Part of PACER's problem is that it is actually 214 separate systems. Every appellate, district and bankruptcy court maintains its own site, each requiring a separate search. The site's partial solution to this dispersion is the Case Locator, an index for searching case information across the PACER system. But the Case Locator is updated only once daily, collects only subsets of data from court sites, and has limited functionality. What PACER needs is a whole new interface—one that provides universal search, more robust search tools, more informative search results, and better ways to manage documents and downloads."
And low and behold, a new interface does exist in a FREE resource called PacerPro. "PacerPro provides a clean, modern interface to the PACER system. But PacerPro is more than just lipstick on a pig. It actually improves on the federal site through features such as real-time universal search, aggregated search results and one-click downloads of entire dockets. To achieve real-time universal search, PacerPro bypasses PACER's Case Locator. Instead, it logs in directly to all 214 court sites. Whereas the Case Locator will not find same-day data, PacerPro will. Search PacerPro by party or attorney name or case number. Another advantage is that PacerPro aggregates key case data in a single display, whereas in PACER, this data is shown piecemeal over multiple pages."
Other notable features of PacerPro include:
• Advanced docket searching using Boolean and proximity search.
• Automatic PDF labeling that replaces PACER's generic document names with ones that make sense.
• Bookmarking of cases so that you can easily return to them once you have found them.
"Users need their own PACER account, and they still incur standard charges of 10 cents per page retrieved. However, PacerPro can reduce the federal site's charges in one way: Once any user downloads a document, that document becomes available to all users for free. When another user requests it, PacerPro retrieves its stored copy, avoiding the PACER charge."
This is a good start to updating the clunky PACER system. Kudos to Gavin McGrane and the PacerPro team.