Information Should Be Free, Unless You're Already Paying For It

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11 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    The NY PI law blog post is just a great example of an elitist not realizing he's an elitist. His post presupposes that all the lawyers and others who have access to PACER are Just Good and Right People. How does he know this?

    He doesn't. It's just ASSUMED. Bias is a mother fucker like that.

    Also, if my family were rich, I'd be able to search people on PACER/Lexis-Nexis/AmeriSearch. Actually, I'd be able to run an NCIC database query; but that's another story.

    Why don't people who want to limit RECAP also want to limit PACER? Make it a blanket rule that you can't access PACER unless it's for official business. I'm not sure the statute, but I know I can't run your credit just because I want to see it.

    Yet they don't want to do limit PACER. Like me, they are hobbyists, too; and also like to snoop. But, again, we are Just Good and Right people, and therefore may be trusted.

    Fuck everyone else.

  2. Eric T. says:

    The NY PI law blog post is just a great example of an elitist not realizing he’s an elitist. His post presupposes that all the lawyers and others who have access to PACER are Just Good and Right People.

    This would be accurate, except for the fact that the post says the exact opposite.

  3. Patrick says:

    For the record, I linked to Eric T.'s site because he raised the exact concern that bothers me about PACER as it exists: that as it stands it's a hive of identity theft. I don't give my clients' SS numbers and addresses in federal filings either. Their addresses are always "care of [me]" and no one bothers me about numbers.

    But the PACER system, and its charges, bother me because I'm a strong believer in open courts and open records, and I disapprove of taxes masquerading as fees. More lawyers need to be concerned about what they file, and to know that if you make your client's address "care of [you]" and omit to give Social Security numbers, no court will dismiss your suit. At least none in which I practice.

  4. Ken says:

    The concern about revealing personal information in federal filings is absolutely a valid one. But that's the responsibility of the lawyers filing documents, and not a justification for making public documents harder to get.

    PACER is fantastic because it is a relatively cheap (cheaper than getting copies at the clerk's office, and vastly easier) method of accessing public docs. As Patrick suggests, the clerk's warning smacks of government rent-seeking.

  5. matthew says:

    Patrick, you must not work in Bankruptcy,

    In two of the cases, Adair and Austin, the debtors had social security numbers and chose not to disclose them to the court. Both courts held that providing a social security number is of substantive importance and not a matter of form. This Court agrees with the holding in those cases; if a debtor has a social security number, FRBP 1005 requires that number to be disclosed.

    In re Merlo 265 B.R. 502, 504 (Bkrtcy.S.D.Fla.,2001)

  6. Patrick says:

    Matthew, I sure don't.

  7. Mike says:

    This would be accurate, except for the fact that the post says the exact opposite.

    Not at all.

    Of course ID theft is a risk. It has always been a risk. Except that people are only NOW screaming, "Look at the risk!" because the unwashed masses might soon be able to access PACER filings. The presupposition of that position is that only certain types of people should be able to access PACER.

    It's like when people started getting all uppity over gay adoption. Those same people, never in their lives, had an opinion on adoption. Suddenly, when gays want to adopt, those until-now-uninvolved people had all sorts of opinions on adoption. It made one wonder: "What is really motivating your arguments? Is it adoption qua adoption; or gays qua gays?"

    You must look beneath the surface of an argument. Not are premises are stated. Many unstated premises are not even known to the one making the arguments. Indeed, that is why there are shelves on research on cognitive bias.

    Also, too, I didn't see Eric T. suggesting that PACER access be limited on a need-to-know basis. I.e., if the case ain't yours, you shouldn't be able to access case documents. Really, why are you on PACER looking things up if it's not your case?

    Thus, one can only infer that the current arrangement of PACER is OK. Or at least OK enough that we don't need posts about ID theft and other horribles.

    Incidentally, I am contra Ken and Patrick on PACER. I think PACER is great, and cheap. If the government is able to turn a profit by providing a valuable and time-saving service (I use PACER to find complaints when researching an unfamiliar area of law)…. Man, that's almost libertarianism.

    PACER is, to me, something majestic. It's not perfect, but it's damned good.

    But what about tax dollars funding PACER? Well, how tax money actually goes into PACER? I doubt much. So it seems that the taxpayer protest is really a protest over not being able to obtain a disproportionately large benefit. It's like people who end up paying 5% in incomes taxes and who send their kids to public school attending Tea Parties. Um, you already get much more than you give. My ears are deaf.

    Now, in a perfect world, we'd have PACER stop receiving taxpayer funding. Make it self-funding. It clearly could be. Of course I'm sure there'd be some protests over that, too (though perhaps not necessarily from Ken and Patrick). How dare the PRIVATE SECTOR get control over PUBLIC documents!?!

    Sometimes you just can't win. All of this is enough to make a guy a cynic.

  8. Ken says:

    I'm not sure how, exactly, you are contra me.

  9. Mike says:

    Ken, I re-read your comment. I am contra reading comprehension.

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