Skip to main content

Federal Judiciary to Limit PACER Access?

Should some PACER filings be blocked to ensure the safety of witnesses and informants? Possibly, according to a recently published a survey of federal judges, prosecutors, defenders and probation officers by the Federal Judicial Center.

Originally reported in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required/ available via Lexis Advance), recent survey (PDF) of federal judges, prosecutors, defenders and probation offices by the Federal Judicial Center found that nearly 700 witnesses and informants perceived as snitches had been threatened, wounded or killed over a three year period. According to the Wall Street Journal article,

"Federal inmates are restricted from accessing PACER themselves, but it is easy for them to ask people outside the prison to search the online system and report the information back into the prison by phone, according to judges." Inmates are becoming more sophisticated at decoding available criminal findings within the case filings, leading to a substantial threat to these so-called snitches.

In the survey, with nearly 1,000 respondents, "[r]espondents frequently reported court documents or court proceedings as the source for identifying cooperators." Plea agreements and other identifying documents are not considered prison contraband, and may even be posted on cell walls for other inmates to view.

Survey responses encouraged action by the Department of Justice to mitigate this threat to those cooperating with law enforcement, but no specific action has been taken to limit PACER access to the public in criminal cases. Some respondents also encouraged placing more sensitive documents under seal. Both of these possibilities are viewed by some defense attorneys as detrimental to their defendant-clients cases. In addition, any limitation of public access to these filings raise First Amendment concerns about access to government documents.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

GAO Launches Government Transition App

Want to learn more about the upcoming presidential and congressional transitions? There’s an app for that. 

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently launched its Priorities for Policy Makers app (available free of charge for iPhone or Android), which is intended to “help President-elect Donald Trump and the next Congresstackle critical challenges facing the nation, fix agency-specific problems, and scrutinize government areas with the potential for large savings,” according to Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO. The app allows users to search by agency or topic, and provides brief summaries of relevant issues as well as links to more detailed GAO reports. 

You can also find GAO priority recommendations on the agency’s Presidential and Congressional Transition web pages.

Now Available: Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture, & Law

The Law Library’s subscription to HeinOnline now includes a new resource in its collection of over fifty resource groups for primary and secondary legal sources: Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture, & Law. This collection brings together a vast array of legal content and materials related to slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world. This includes every statute passed by every colony and state on slavery, every federal statute dealing with slavery, and all reported state and federal cases on slavery. 

Beyond these primary legal materials the collection every English-language legal commentary on slavery published before 1920 and more than a thousand pamphlets and books on slavery from the 19th century. The collection also word searchable access to all Congressional debates from the Continental Congress to 1880 along with many modern histories of slavery. 

Edited by Paul Finkelman, an expert on slavery and American legal history, the collection identif…