Friday, August 14, 2009

Recap the Law: Better Access to Public Records

A new Firefox extention has been created that allows you better access to court records available through PACER. To learn more visit the website RECAP - Turning PACER around online at .

RECAP is a free extension for Firefox that improves the experience of using PACER, the electronic public access system for the U.S. Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts.
Using RECAP allow you to:
* Helps give back by contributing to a public archive hosted by the Internet Archive
* Save by showing you when free documents are available, and;
* Keeps you organized by providing you better filenames and more useful headers

From the RECAP site:

Transparency is a fundamental principle of our legal system. Since the 1980s, the cutting edge of judicial transparency has been PACER, an electronic system that allows attorneys and the general public to access millions of federal court records. PACER was a big step forward when it was originally created, but lately it has begun to show its age. At a time when the other two branches of government are becoming ever more subject to online scrutiny, the judicial branch still requires citizens to provide a credit card and pay eight cents a page for its documents. For reasons we detail on our "Why It Matters" page, we think this needs to change, and the sooner the better. Today we’re excited to release the public beta of RECAP.

RECAP is an extension to the popular Firefox web browser that gives PACER users a hassle-free way to contribute to a free, open repository of federal court records. When a RECAP user purchases a document from PACER, the RECAP extension helps her automatically send a copy of that document to the RECAP archive. And RECAP saves its users money by notifying them when documents they’re searching for are already available for free from the public archive.

RECAP is a project of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. It was developed by Harlan Yu, Steve Schultze, and Timothy B. Lee, under the supervision of Prof. Ed Felten. Some of the key ideas that inspired RECAP are described in this paper, written by Harlan, Ed, and two of their colleagues. The RECAP repository is hosted by the Internet Archive, a world-renowned online library. With the help of RECAP users, we want to build the nation’s most comprehensive public archive of freely-available federal judicial records.

RECAP is looking for partners to help them build the archive more quickly and find new, innovative uses for the information. They are already working with Justia and to integrate the public records they already have into RECAP's archive. A video on RECAP's website provides a quick demonstration of RECAP in action.

If you’d like to be a RECAP beta tester, please check out our privacy policy and then go to their installation page to get started.