Unlike state courts, which store their case files in decaying cardboard boxes randomly scattered around the floor of the Clerk’s Office, federal court has all its files chronologically organized and publicly available on a national website called PACER.
But such robot-like efficiency comes at a high psychological cost. Newcomers to PACER are directed to an animated film featuring two characters named Mr. Sound Block and Ms. Gavel (no first name supplied). Ms. Gavel is a tall, slinky dominatrix with a voracious-looking mouth, wearing a tight skirt and lethal red shoes. Mr. Block is barefoot and wears nothing but a pair of white gloves. Ms. Gavel kicks off the film by having Mr. Block lie on his back and giving him a vicious, utterly unprovoked head butt, causing him substantial pain as evidenced by a circle of little twittering birds flying around.
Mr. B., who clearly suffers from learned helplessness and battered sound block syndrome, gets back on his feet without protest. Ms. Gavel then chatters about how PACER is run by anonymous creatures “collecting data in the wee hours of the night.”
There’s even a sequel, where Ms. Gavel, not content with using her head as a dangerous instrument, comes armed with a bow and arrow supplied by an offstage leopard. Once again, Mr. Block lies down and takes it in the solar plexus.
This blatant appeal to prurient interest in gavels and sound blocks is yet another conspiracy by the federal government to bilk the public of its hard-earned dollars. Because needless to say, PACER isn’t free. You’re lured into downloading a page or two at ten cents a page, and the next thing you know, you’ve run up a bill for $27.50. It’s only a matter of time before you’re filing for bankruptcy – in federal court, of course.
PS For more information about to manage your federal case, see “I’m Going to Federal Court with Mark and Julie.”