PacerPro – Going Free-ly Into The New Year

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Remember PacerPro? That cool web service that helps you interface with PACER in a much more civilized manner than the actual PACER site? I introduced it here in the Studio a little over a year ago. At that time, it was an introductory release with an anticipated monthly cost and separate charge for  mobile app access. At the price, it was still a fantastic bargain for anyone who has to deal regularly with the federal PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) databases, with documents numbering in the billions. You may recall from my post here that it offered a great cross database searching and filtering, (which is sorely lacking from PACER), great document management and bookmarking features and mobile access and no additional Pacer charge for pulling documents out of the archive.

So, how do you make an already awesome service even awesomer? You offer it for free. That’s right. Free. You still are charged for your PACER access, as your PacerPro account is tied to your PACER account, but because of how PacerPro is set up, you can minimize those costs through better targeting and filtering of your results. In case you don’t remember what the PACER charges are, access to court documents costs $0.10 per page, with a cap in a single document at $3.00. The cap does not apply to name searches, reports that are not case-specific and transcripts of federal court proceedings. Because PACER is a transactional system, you can’t go back and access your prior research efforts without having to pay twice or more.  PacerPro, on the other hand, allows you to bookmark your cases and return to them in the My Cases tab.

Another small but useful feature of PacerPro is the data behind the documents – when you save a document out of PACER, the file naming convention makes no sense and you have to rename everything so that you can figure out what you have pulled down. PacerPro uses a smarter naming convention that defaults to a file name that makes sense, which saves you some time when saving and moving on to the next document.

Another thought to keep in mind – while the paid services offer some access to the materials in the PACER system, only PACER has everything in the PACER system. So, when you really need to be sure you have every federal filing, you should check your search in the PACER database, using PacerPro to get your results in real time.

There are lots of details in the information that PacerPro shows that really make the service useful – you can see when dockets have been updated, you can see more key information about the matter on the results page than you can in regular PACER, etc. All these features make PacerPro more efficient and user-friendly.

Why the change of price? PacerPro is adding paid features at some point in the future. Even at free, however, the PacerPro basic service is quite robust and useful, so I can only imagine how cool the paid features will be. Here is the list of current features from PacerPro’s FAQ:

  • Simultaneous searches. Search across one or more district courts in real time.
  • Aggregated results. Say goodbye to wading through multiple web pages to see complete results.
  • One-click download. Download the entire docket with a single click.
  • Freebies. Previously downloaded documents are free.
  • Automatic PDF labeling. PacerPro saves you time by sensibly labeling your documents.
  • Bookmarking. Once you’ve found a case on PacerPro, you’ll never need to search for it again.
  • One-click docket update. Dockets update at the push of a button.
  • Advanced docket search tools. Locate the right record with robust search options, including boolean and proximity searching.

Wait. You say this isn’t enough free goodness for you? Then check this out. PacerPro has taken on the task of monitoring the uptime status of the various district courts across the United States. You can check out the “health” of the courts’ online systems at this link here.  There is a scale that looks a lot like Weather.com’s storm rating graph – from green and healthy to red and acute or even black and down – across the various districts. At writing, the Federal District Court for the  District of Connecticut is looking quite red and acute, while the District Court for the District of New Hampshire is green and healthy. Hover over the districts to see the actual upload speeds. You can get speeds from the last hour up to the last minute – very useful real time information if you are down to the wire on a court filing. You can generally see the high performing and low performing courts, and can even compare court speeds to the speeds of other popular sites, like Healthcare.gov, and Google.com. The site promises that more courts will be coming soon. There’s a Twitter account right now that provides live updates when court sites go down (https://twitter.com/PacerPro). Very cool feature, indeed!

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One last add: Ellen Gilmore, a reference librarian at BOALT, is in the process of creating a series of short videos which demonstrate how to use PacerPro’s free services. You will be able to  check them out at the pacerpro.com site once available.

UPDATE: the tutorials are live at this link.

So, all good from the fine folks at PacerPro. Check out the service by signing up for free with your email and PACER credentials and let me know what you think. I think you will be impressed.

Someone’s Finally Tamed Pacer! PacerPro To The Rescue

Have you ever used Pacer to retrieve federal docket information? Did you enjoy the experience? C’mon, now, be honest. It pretty much stinks, no two ways about it. There is little doubt that Pacer – the massive on-line nationwide database of U.S. Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy court records, with 214 separate databases and an estimated trillion documents  – is sorely in need of a modern make-over. But I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath while the federal government gets around to doing that.

In the meantime, two entrepreneurs have taken upon themselves the massive task and have come up with PacerPro – a much more pleasing web-based skin and set of tools for anyone wishing to interface with Pacer. John Sanders, previously of Apple and Autodesk, and Gavin McGrane, an attorney, have quietly spent the past couple of years combining their legal and technical expertise to develop PacerPro, which makes searching Pacer simpler and, dare I say it, even enjoyable. Gavin and John kindly offered me the opportunity last week to watch PacerPro in action and provided me with the overview of the product, which launches today as a preview release.

PacerPro definitely leverages the Pacer databases, but changes how researchers interact with them. Pacer users are familiar with the form-driven search interface that makes creative searching incredibly difficult – it is nearly impossible to hone in quickly on the exact document you may be looking for in the traditional Pacer interface. But with PacerPro’s streamlined look and feel – with intelligent search fields for the Pacer search tool and a Google-like natural language interface for the archive tool that accesses all Pacer docs that PacerPro’s users have retrieved, results are easier to find, sort and scan. There are tools to bookmark cases under the My Cases tool, and the ability to store documents in folders so that you can find them easily at a later time and “sync” the documents with other users, via their email. Imagine – you can directly share a Pacer document with someone else electronically! Space-age!

What makes it even more space-age is the companion mobile iOS app – you can access your collected resources stored in PacerPro on your iPad. Even offline. Even while on a plane or in a courtroom. Very cool indeed.


The key features of PacerPro at launch include the following (taken from their press release):

  • Searching PACER – PacerPRO’s robust search tools’ capabilities include: Search across multiple courts simultaneously to find a complete set of records. Filter these results to identify relevant cases quickly. Save past searches.
  • Document Management – Once the relevant information is retrieved, users can bookmark cases for easy access.  PacerPRO automatically indexes the docket for quick and easy searches.  Electronic files make it easy to create and save collections of documents, reflect changes in the docket, and organize document collections.
  • Mobile Access – Entirely web-based, PacerPRO provides attorneys access to important case information anywhere at anytime.  And, thanks to PacerPRO’s iPad application, attorneys can now take curated docket collections offline — great for places where internet access is not always available, such as the courtroom, on airplanes, and at depositions.  No more delays while you update paper files.  No more lugging boxes full of binders stuffed with pleadings.
  • PacerPRO Archive – PacerPRO is in the process of compiling our own archival database.  The PacerPRO Archive returns results with simple, one-word or boolean searches.  We are constantly adding to the PacerPRO Archive. Archive searches are free.

No doubt, Gavin and John have taken on a pretty big task. But it seems they have risen to it with a nicely designed product that will help litigators or anyone neading ready access to federal docket materials interact with Pacer more easily and with a lot less pain, from pretty much anywhere.

The service is not free – the PacerPro online subscription will cost $25 month, which represents a special introductory price. The iPad app is also subscription based, at $15 a month. Plus your usual Pacer charges when you request a document, although archive searches are free. Remember, the archive is all documents that PacerPro users have requested via Pacer – the archive is a secondary database automatically created and accessible via natural language search. So, while it won’t be cost effective for the infrequent user, the time savings alone may be worth the cost for heavy Pacer users, litigators and anyone else needing regular, quick access to the federal courts.

I wish Gavin and John all the best with their application – they clearly have seen a need and filled it nicely. Looking forward to playing with PacerPro myself. You can find more about it at their newly live website at pacerpro.com. Or follow them on Twitter at @pacerpro.