The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has removed decades worth of court documents from its PACER database to make way for a new system, according to an agency spokesperson.
An announcement posted to PACER earlier this month states that cases filed prior to Jan. 1, 2010, in the Court of Appeals for the 2nd and 11th Circuit and before March 1, 2012, in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit have been removed from the system “in preparation for the implementation of the next generation of the Judiciary’s Case Management/Electronic Case Files System.”
“As a result of these architectural changes, the locally developed legacy case management systems in five courts of appeals are now incompatible with PACER, and therefore the judiciary is no longer able to provide electronic access to the closed cases on those systems,” Courts spokesperson Karen Redmond wrote in an email to FedScoop.
Redmond said anyone looking to obtain removed cases must contact the clerk’s office via email or written request.
Even though the announcement was posted earlier this month, it was widely disseminated during the past 24 hours. The PACER announcement alerting the public to the changes was down as of Tuesday afternoon.
A lot of open government advocates, legal experts and journalists have turned to social media to express their dismay over the disappearing documents:
Bajillions of court records just vanished from the web, never to be seen again. PACER is the *worst*. https://t.co/fUIpNTBQTZ
— Waldo Jaquith (@waldojaquith) August 26, 2014
— Kim Clark (@kclarkcollege) August 26, 2014
— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) August 26, 2014
The only thing nice to say about PACER is that it’s better than ~45 state court docket systems.
— Dave Hoffman (@HoffProf) August 26, 2014