June 14, 2006
Bruce R. James
Public Printer of the United States
United States Government Printing Office
Washington, DC 20401
Thank you very much for inviting me to speak at the March 14th ceremony celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Federal Register. It was a great pleasure for me to join you, Allen Weinstein and your other distinguished guests to talk about the Federal Register and its use by the legal community. Indeed it is the essential tool in citizens' access to the law. As you know, an important goal of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is to foster equal access to the law for all citizens, scholars, lawyers and students.
Toward that end, AALL would like to work with you so that users of federal depository libraries have access to the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system at no cost to participating libraries. I understand that you have met with Ralph Mecham, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC), in the past on our behalf to encourage them to provide no-fee access to PACER. We very much appreciate these past efforts. Unfortunately, they have not been successful in no small measure due to the fact that Congress has authorized the Judicial Conference to prescribe "reasonable fees" for PACER.
Certainly there is a good model in place whereby depository libraries have no-fee access to several other government fee-based information services similar to PACER. These include STAT-USA, USA Trade Online and the National Climatic Data Center Online Document Library. In addition, GPO's October 2005 document, Progress Report 2: The Carrot Crop Is Still Growing, specifies that an important incentive to keep libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program is to:
"Provide depository libraries with access to fee-based government information database services and other government information products so-called cooperative publications which must necessarily be sold in order to be self-sustaining under 44 U.S.C. § 1903.
The AALL Executive Board endorsed the attached resolution at our April meeting to formally request that you meet once again with the AOUSC to urge them to work cooperatively with GPO to find a way to provide no-fee access to PACER for all depository libraries. We are hopeful that the retirement of Mr. Mecham in June and the appointment of James C. Duff as the new director will result in success.
As always, the AALL Executive Board and our Washington Office are here to assist you in any way we can. Thank you very much.
American Association of Law Libraries