US Senator demands the restoration of 10 years of online public records

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The head of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee is urging the federal bureaucracy to restore a decade’s worth of electronic court documents that were deleted last month from online viewing because of an upgrade to a computer database known as PACER. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said the removal of the thousands of cases from online review is essentially erasing history.

If you want digital access to U.S. court documents, PACER will likely be your first stop. It’s a sort of digital warehouse for public court records maintained by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, or the AO. The service charges 10 cents per page of search results within its databases and 10 cents per actual page of public court records. Public domain and freedom of information advocates have long criticized the charges, along with the system’s difficult-to-navigate interface, and have tried to create free alternative archives. But on Aug. 10, PACER unceremoniously announced that archives for five courts — four of them federal courts of appeals — would no longer be available through the system.

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