RECAP Firefox plugin: Helps make Pacer records a public archive.

By at 14 August, 2009, 11:32 am

 Slashdot posted Firefox Plugin Liberates Paywalled Court Records today which is a link to Timothy B. Lee’s Bottom-up blog. It seems that Mr. Lee and fellow grad students have a created RECAP,  a Firefox plugin that allows you to take Pacer court records that you’ve purchased and upload them to a public internet archive. While the Federal Courts make records available, they do so through the PACER online system which requires an account as well as charging a per document fee.

According to Mr. Lee:

Transparency is a fundamental principle of our judicial system because it allows us to fully understand the laws that bind us. Yet when it comes to accessing judicial records online, the judiciary falls well short of this ideal. PACER locks documents behind a paywall—charging 8 cents per “page”—and forces users to use a cumbersome search interface that’s inscrutible to non-lawyers.  

If you’ve ever used PACER, you know how frustrating using PACER can be; however, any generally available archive will need to be simple to use both from an uploading and accessing standpoint which point Lee’s post makes:

What RECAP does is very simple: whenever a user downloads (and pays for) a document from PACER, RECAP helps the user automatically send a copy of that document to a public archive hosted by the Internet Archive. In addition (and here’s the real selling point for users), if a user searches for a document that’s already in the public archive, RECAP will notify the user of this fact and give him the option of downloading the free version, saving the user money on PACER fees. Users can (to paraphrase Carl Malamud) save money as they save public access to the law.


While there are other projects that are working to make access to caselaw free such as PreCYdent, this is the first project that I’m aware of working to make not only the caselaw but also the case documents and pleadings freely and easily accessible.

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Free Dockets August 19, 2009

Free Pacer dockets have been available for some time at No Pacer account or Firefox plugin required.

Hugh Tedder August 28, 2009

Here’s the current response to RECAP from the Southern District of Mississippi:

The court would like to make CM/ECF filers aware of certain security concerns relating to a software application or “plug-in” called RECAP, which was designed by a group from Princeton
University to enable the sharing of court documents on the Internet.

Once a user loads RECAP, documents that he or she subsequently accesses via PACER are automatically sent to a public Internet repository. Other RECAP/PACER users are then able to see whether documents are available from the Internet repository. RECAP captures District and Bankruptcy Court documents, but has not yet incorporated Appellate Court functionality. At this time, RECAP does not appear to provide users with access to restricted or sealed documents.

Please be aware that RECAP is “open-source” software, which can be freely obtained by anyone with Internet access and modified for benign or malicious purposes, such as facilitating unauthorized access to restricted or sealed documents.

Accordingly, CM/ECF filers are reminded to be diligent about their computer security practices to ensure that documents are not inadvertently shared or compromised.
The court and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts will continue to analyze the implications of RECAP or related-software and advise you of any ongoing or further concerns.

ray kelly April 19, 2011


LULZanonymous May 4, 2012

LOL. PACER is butthurt because their dox are being distro'd free by other sites now. I love how they say "can be freely obtained by anyone with Internet access and modified for benign or malicious purposes". Same can be said of any plugin actually. Amirite?

Rise Of Mythos April 19, 2014

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