Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an online service of the United States Judiciary that provides case and docket information from Federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts. While the growth of PACER accounts appears to be very robust based on the findings of the "United States Courts Electronic Public Access Program - PACER Service Assessment (Sept. 2010).
PACER management appears to be doing more marketing and outreach recently. It is unclear whether this might be a response to re-occuring criticism that the Judiciary keeps much of their "public" information behind what is termed a "paywall". Or the occassional inquiries from the likes of Senator Lieberman about how the PACER generated funds are being spent. See:
Perhaps just like any entity that sells a service, PACER may just want to increase the usability of their service and expand its use into new markets ? Another graph from the PACER assessment about user constiuencies can be instructive.
While 75% of the users are lawyers and litigants, there are some other sectors that could be making greater use of the service. Several of the other sectors identified as 5% or less, could probably be grown by a more user -friendly site, expanded marketing, and accessible training for PACER.
The Office of the US Courts appears to me moving on all these fronts :
• Released the Case Locator, formerly the U.S.
Party/Case Index (March 2010)
• Increased the fee waiver to $10 per quarter
• Redesigned the PACER website, pacer.gov
And most recently have introduced a web site that provides basic orientation and training for PACER, using a subset of actual court filings for users to work with.
"Welcome to the PACER training site. Use this site to learn how to use PACER. The site is free of charge and has been populated with real case data from New York Western District Court from cases filed between 1/1/2007 and 7/1/2007."
The page provides suggested searches to try using the tabbed functions at the top of the page. Exeprimenting with the results from the training subset can orient a new user to the PACER interface.
It is also suggested that potential users download the "PACER Service Center User Manual" to familiarize themselves with the service.