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Raiser v. San Diego County

United States District Court, S.D. California

January 7, 2020

AARON RAISER, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER RE PLAINTIFF'S EX PARTE REQUEST FOR COPIES OR FREE ACCESS TO PACER [DOC. NO. 41.]

          Hon. Kareri S. Crawford, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Aaron Raiser, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to Title 42, United State Code, Section 1983, alleging that he was unlawfully detained by San Diego County deputy sheriffs on three separate occasions in three different locations. [Doc. No. 9.] On December 18, 2019, plaintiff filed an Ex Parte Application explaining that his laptop computer was stolen, and, as a result, he no longer has copies of the operative First Amended Complaint in this case or the Order permitting service of process by the U.S. Marshal. [Doc. No. 41-1, at p. 1.]

         In his Ex Parte Application, plaintiff makes two requests. First, plaintiff requests that the Court send him with copies of the First Amended Complaint and the Order permitting service of process by the U.S. Marshal via U.S. Mail or e-mail, so that he can forward them to the U.S. Marshal for service on defendants who have not yet been served. If the Court does not provide him with copies of these documents, plaintiff represents he will be unable to complete service of process in this case, because be only has $ 10 and no current work. [Doc. No. 41 -1, at p. 1.]

         Good cause appearing, the Court GRANTS plaintiffs request for copies of the First Amended Complaint and the Order permitting service of process by the U.S. Marshal. The Court will send these documents, as well as a copy of the summons, to plaintiff in PDF format via e-mail at the e-mail address plaintiff provided to the Court for electronic service of court documents in the CM/ECF system.

         Alternatively, plaintiff requests that the Court waive fees and allow him free access to the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system ("PACER"). If plaintiff has free access to PACER, he states that he would be able to print copies of the First Amended Complaint and Order allowing service by the U.S. Marshal and then forward these documents to the U.S. Marshal so that service of process in this case can be completed as to all defendants. [Doc. No. 41 -1, at p. 2.] In an attached Declaration, plaintiff also mentions he currently has no access to PACER. Apparently, plaintiffs PACER account has been disabled because he owes $80 that he is unable to pay right now. [Doc. No. 41, at p. 2.] In addition, plaintiff argues that granting him free access to PACER for this case and for this District would be helpful, because parties often cite non-published cases, and free access would allow him to read the cited cases. [Doc. No. 41-1, at p. 2.] In sum, it appears that plaintiff is requesting that the Court (1) waive the $80 in PACER fees that he has already incurred; (2) reactivate his PACER account; and (3) direct PACER to waive any future fees.

         In an Order filed on July 22, 2019, the District Court granted plaintiffs application for an order allowing him CM/ECF access in this case. [Doc. No. 11.] In other words, this case has been designated as an e-filing case, and, as a result, all documents (e.g., orders, opinions, motions, oppositions, and replies) are served on plaintiff electronically at the e-mail address he provided to the Court for this purpose. As an e-filing litigant, plaintiff should be able to view and download all filed documents in this case once without charge. Downloaded documents can then be printed or electronically saved for future reference. In his Motion, plaintiff does not indicate whether he is unable to access, view, and download newly filed documents in this case without charge because of the deactivation of his PACER account. Typically, it would only be necessary for an e-filing litigant to pay for additional copies of filed documents at the current PACER cost often cents per page with a maximum cost per document of $3.00. "No fee is charged for access to judicial opinions." Electronic Public Access Fee Schedule, at 28 United States Code Section 1914, at Nos. 1-8.

         Courts may exempt some individuals and groups, including indigents, from payment of PACER access fees. However, "[a] party seeking a discretionary exemption cannot rely on his in forma pauperis status alone." In re Club Ventures Investments LLC, 507 B.R. 91, 99 (S.D.N.Y. 2014). "In considering granting an exemption, courts must find: that those seeking an exemption have demonstrated that an exemption is necessary in order to avoid unreasonable burdens and to promote public access to information; [and] that individual researchers requesting an exemption have shown" that the exemption is limited in scope and "not intended for redistribution on the internet or for commercial purposes." Electronic Public Access Fee Schedule, at 28 United States Code Section 1914, at No. 9.

         Without more, it is unclear why plaintiff incurred $80 in PACER access fees that he is unable to pay. It is also unclear whether any of these printing costs were incurred in connection with this case. The Court issued an Order allowing plaintiff access to filed documents through the CM/ECF system early in the case. [Doc. No. 11.] The factual and legal issues in the case are not complex, and defendants have only filed two motions thus far. Other than citations to decisions in cases where plaintiff was the complaining party, defendants' two Motions to Dismiss and a related Reply only cited a total of three unpublished opinions. [Doe. No. 7, at p. 5; Doc. No. 12-1, at p. 3; Doc. No. 22, at p. 3.] Via PACER, plaintiff should have been able to review these unpublished opinions without charge. Even assuming plaintiff printed these unpublished decisions, the total printing costs would not have exceeded $9. Electronic Public Access Fee Schedule, at 28 United States Code Section 1914, at No. 1 (indicating the cost for electronic access to any case document is $0.10 per page "not to exceed the fee for thirty pages"). The District Court's Order Granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss did cite approximately ten unpublished decisions, and these decisions could also have been reviewed via PACER without charge [Doc. No. 27]. It is unclear why plaintiff would have had any need to print any of these cases, but even if he did, the charges would not have exceeded $30. To the extent the $80 in unpaid PACER fees were incurred in connection with other cases, it would not be appropriate for this Court to waive those charges, especially if other courts previously denied plaintiffs requests for a waiver of PACER fees in his other cases.

         In sum, plaintiff has not demonstrated that an exemption of PACER fees is necessary to avoid unreasonable burdens in the case. Accordingly, plaintiffs request for a waiver of prior and future PACER fees is DENIED at this time. Plaintiff may renew his motion if there is additional information that could satisfy the unreasonable burden standard; if he is unable to view, save, and print copies of newly filed documents in this case for a limited time after receipt; or if the disabling of his PACER account prohibits him from reviewing judicial opinions in other cases at no charge even if he does not print them.

         To the extent plaintiff has not been able to serve any remaining defendants because his computer was stolen, and he did not have access to a copy of the First Amended Complaint and the Order permitting service of process by the U.S. Marshal, plaintiff is GRANTED an extension of 15 days ...


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