In September 1988, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system was instituted as a way to provide access to public records through authorized computer terminals. At first, these terminals were only available for use in certain public libraries and in some office buildings. In 2001, PACER was made publicly accessible on the Internet as a fee-based search service. It currently is estimated to contain well over 500 million documents. PACER represents the first major use of electronic court filing in the U.S.
Simply put, electronic court filing is the transmission of relevant court documents over the Internet or through other electronic means. In the U.S. judicial system, the preferred format for those documents is determined by standards that govern the way in which documents are structured and the metadata information provided with the court records. PACER records are uploaded in XML-based formats to ensure maximum interoperability and compatibility across a wide range of operating systems and platforms.
Electronic court filing systems provide superior access to attorneys, legal personnel, and members of the public. As more states move to this technologically advanced data transmission method for lawyer-to-lawyer communications, court submissions, and storage of completed cases, the improved access will allow greater transparency for the judicial process.