National Veterans Legal Services Program v. United States

Little Tucker Act

Issue(s) Presented

“Congress has conferred limited authority on the judiciary to charge fees for access to electronic court records. These fees may be imposed ‘as a charge for services rendered’ to ‘reimburse expenses incurred in providing these services.’ 28 U.S.C. § 1913 note. But after the judiciary began charging more in PACER fees than necessary to reimburse the expenses of operating PACER, Congress amended the statute in 2002 to add the words ‘only to the extent necessary.’ The question in this interlocutory appeal is what that language means. Did it require a reduction in PACER fees, as the plaintiffs contend, limiting them to the amount necessary to pay for PACER (the service provided for the fee)? Did it lock in the status quo, as the district court held? Or did it instead ‘indicate clearly’ that Congress intended to authorize an expansion in fees, as the government maintains, such that PACER users may be made to pay for many services that do not ‘inur[e] directly to the[ir] benefit,’ Skinner, 490 U.S. at 224?”


“Plaintiffs contend that under this provision unlawfully excessive fees have been charged for accessing federal court records through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system and that the district court identifies too little unlawful excess. The government argues that the district court identifies too much (and also that the district court lacked jurisdiction). We conclude that the district court got it just right. We therefore affirm and remand for further proceedings.”