Monday, August 17, 2009

RECAP, Firefox PACER Plug-in: Public Access to Court Electronic Records

PACER stands for “Public Access to Court Electronic Records" and is the website the federal judiciary uses to make public records available to the general public. You can use PACER to access legal documents relating to thousands of federal court cases. Although PACER is officially available to the general public, it is mostly used by practicing attorneys. The site is difficult for non-lawyers to navigate, and it has a “paywall” that requires users to pay significant fees for the documents they download from PACER.

RECAP is an extension (or “add on”) for the Firefox web browser that improves the PACER experience while helping PACER users build a free and open repository of public court records. RECAP users automatically donate the documents they purchase from PACER into a public repository hosted by the Internet Archive. And RECAP saves users money by alerting them when a document they are searching for is already available from this repository. RECAP also makes other enhancements to the PACER experience, including more user-friendly file names.

From the site:
"The great part about this is that because the Archive is providing the server space for free, every RECAP user is saving the court system work. Each time you download through RECAP, you avoid having to go through PACER’s servers at all. So yes, RECAP will mean a decrease in PACER’s revenues, but it also means a decrease in the things those revenues need to pay for. It’s an all-around good thing. It saves attorneys, researchers, and citizens money. It saves the government computer resources. And it makes the law just a little bit more free and accessible."

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