pacer--public-recordsU.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, an ambitious effort to collect public records and provide the public with free access to them (revolutionary!).

But until now, has not been particularly easy to use, either. Enter RECAP, a brilliant Firefox extension that mashes and PACER together.

When you browse PACER, RECAP will do two things:

  1. If you are about to download a document that is available from, RECAP will give you the option to download a copy for free, instead, by putting a RECAP icon next to the regular download link.
  2. If you download a document that is not available from, 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.

RECAP Firefox Extension (via /.)


  1. Sam Holle says:

    This is fantastic! This software should be installed in all law libraries; students, alum talk to your school library administrators

  2. Phil Rhodes says:

    Now this is a brilliant concept. Those music pirates gave us something after all!

  3. Brian Huffman says:

    Thanks for sharing this. Law librarians have been fighting long and hard to make PACER a free and open (read transparent) resource.

  4. Uncle Sam says:

    Your website has an ethics tab … might want to include an article about stealing court documents. The electronic era has produced costs for the courts. Those costs are mitigated by PACER. Through PACER you are paying for a convenience. If you want it free, go to the courthouse. If you want to sit in you comfy leather chair, pay the fee. To do otherwise is stealing and unethical.

  5. Uncle Sam says:

    Oh yeah. Advertisers selling legal services should not support websites that actively promote illegal activity.


  6. Jason says:

    @Uncle Sam, court documents are in the public domain. The only charge is paying for the service of downloading them from PACER. Once you have downloaded them, you are free to do as you wish. That includes making them freely available.

  7. Sam Glover Sam Glover says:

    Jason, thanks for that. I missed Uncle Sam’s comment, but I find them positively comical. These are public documents. You cannot steal what already belongs to the public at large.

Leave a Reply