U.S. courts insist on charging for access to electronic court documents. Ostensibly, this is because the clumsy PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system is also overpriced—who would have guessed!?
Fortunately, many PACER documents are also online and available for free at public.resource.org, an ambitious effort to collect public records and provide the public with free access to them (revolutionary!).
But until now, public.resource.org has not been particularly easy to use, either. Enter RECAP, a brilliant Firefox extension that mashes public.resource.org and PACER together.
When you browse PACER, RECAP will do two things:
- If you are about to download a document that is available from public.resource.org, RECAP will give you the option to download a copy for free, instead, by putting a RECAP icon next to the regular download link.
- If you download a document that is not available from public.resource.org, RECAP will upload the document to the free archive.
None of this will cost you a dime, but it may save you (and your clients) money.
Court records should be free, and lawyers should work towards that goal. Until the courts see the light, RECAP is a brilliantly-conceived tool to liberate public records from PACER.