RECAP: Crowdsourcing U.S. Federal Court Transparency

Back in July I talked about a petition urging to improve PACER, the online access service to U.S. court records and documents. Until improvements are made, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard have stepped in to provide a tool to give open access to court documents that originate on PACER in cooperation with the Internet Archive. The video below is a presentation by Steve Schultze, fellow of the Berkman Center and new Associate Director at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy at the September 8, 2009 conference Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase explaining how the tool RECAP (a Firefox extension) works:

RECAP - how it works


  1. Interesting. I wonder if the Terms of Service of PACER allow users to make documents that have been downloaded from PACER available elsewhere (on RECAP for example)…

  2. PACER is a government-sponsored service. The warnings about RECAP mentioned in the video that are on many PACER sites read as follows:

    “This plug-in [RECAP]violates fee exempt PACER users terms of service and while this sort of plug-in does not violate the Bankruptcy Court’s terms of service for nonexempt PACER/ECF users…”

    So the courts expressly claim that use of the plugin violates “fee exempt” PACER users (fee exempt status is granted to some non-profits and perhaps some legal service or public defender groups, I believe), they also state that it does *not* violate the TOS for people who have to pay to use PACER.

  3. Very good question, Patrick, and thank you for answering, David. I was wondering the same thing.