This week (and Tuesday of next week) the Federal Circuit will hold 16 panel hearings and hear oral arguments in about 56 cases. Amicus briefs were filed, however, in only one of these cases. That case, National Veterans Legal Services Program v. United States, has drawn attention because it is a challenge to the user fees charged by the federal judiciary for access to court records via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. Notably, it has attracted five amicus briefs filed by a combined 51 third parties including various companies, media organizations, library associations, non-profit advocacy organizations, retired federal judges, and a retired U.S. senator.
As previewed on this blog, in this case the plaintiffs-appellants (National Veterans Legal Services Program, National Consumer Law Center, and Alliance for Justice) contend that the E-Government Act passed in 2002 allows the judiciary to impose fees for electronic access to information as a charge for the services rendered, but only to the extent necessary to reimburse expenses incurred in providing these services. In this appeal, they argue that the statutory text is unambiguous in this regard. But even if the text were ambiguous, they say, Supreme Court precedent would dictate the same result. The government, in opposition, argues as a preliminary matter that the plaintiff-appellants have not established a basis for jurisdiction under the Little Tucker Act. On the merits, moreover, the government contends that the statutory text may be reasonably interpreted to “allow fees to be used to support any service that provides access to information available through automatic data processing equipment,” and not just PACER.
Deepak Gupta will argue on behalf of the plaintiff-appellants.
Alisa B. Klein will argue on behalf of the government.
This case is scheduled to be argued this morning at 10:00 A.M. in Courtroom 201.