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Bill to tear down federal courts’ paywall gains momentum in Congress

Enlarge / Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) disagree about many issues, but they both support the Open Courts Act. (credit: KEVIN DIETSCH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the Open Courts Act—legislation to overhaul PACER, the federal courts’ system for accessing public documents. The proposal would guarantee free public access to judicial documents, ending the current practice of charging 10 cents per page for many documents—as well as search results.

The bill must still be passed by the full House and the Senate and signed by the president. With Election Day just seven weeks away, the act is unlikely to become law during this session of Congress.

Still, the vote is significant because it indicates the breadth of Congressional support for tearing down the PACER paywall. The legislation is co-sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), whose bill we covered in 2018, and a fellow Georgian, Democrat Hank Johnson.

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