No Class Status for PACER Free Opinion Suit

A suit alleging federal court opinions should be free in the PACER system isn’t suitable for class status, a federal court held April 12.

Class certification isn’t appropriate because each user’s account would have to be reviewed to determine which class members improperly paid for an opinion, Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. wrote for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The court distinguished this case from another challenging PACER fees, which was certified as a class action last year.

PACER stands for Public Access to Court Electronic Records. Under the e-Government Act of 2002, courts can charge certain fees for access to federal court documents in the system, but “no fee is charged for access to judicial opinions.”

Theodore D’Apuzzo P.A. brought a class action against the government alleging PACER routinely charges for judicial opinions.

But the definition of judicial opinion is inherently subjective, the court said. And determining which documents users were improperly charged for will vary by class member, the court said.

In the certified class action, plaintiffs alleged the fees are higher than necessary to cover the cost of operating the system. That case is still pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Giuliano Law P.A. and Van Ness Law Firm P.A. represented the plaintiff.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami represented the government.

The case is Theodore D’Apuzzo, P.A. v. United States , 2018 BL 132648, S.D. Fla., No. 16-62769, 4/12/18.