“We agree with plaintiffs and amici that the First Amendment stakes here are high,” the court said. But it said it doesn’t foresee the lower court’s interpretation “as resulting in a level of user fees that will significantly impede public access to courts.” The ruling is a win for public access to court information, as PACER fees will go down if the ruling withstands a possible government appeal. But access still won’t be free, despite calls for the government to stop charging for it. The Federal Circuit said it was up to Congress to decide whether to require free access. Challengers said PACER fees were too high, while the government said the middle ground reached by the lower court made the fees too low. Fees for downloading a copy of a filing run 10 cents per page, up to $3 per document. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts collected more than $145 million in fees in 2014 alone, according to the complaint in the case. Under a 2020 change to the fee waiver rules, about 75% of users pay nothing each quarter.
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