Members of the general public are finally able to view online and purchase civil complaints and judgments that have been filed electronically on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas website, the First Judicial District announced this week.
The move means citizens who are not party to a case, such as journalists and other members of the public, can, for the first time, access Philadelphia civil filings in the comfort of their own home.
In the past, members of the public could view case docket information online, but were not able to download copies of the actual civil complaints without going into Philadelphia City Hall and pulling up the filings on an in-house computer system.
The new system will be similar to the federal courts’ Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, which lets people view and download court complaints for a fee.
The First Judicial District, which serves as the court system of Philadelphia County, will charge 10 cents per page to view complaints electronically. Users will be able to fill their “shopping cart” with as many pages of filings as they desire, and then will be charged a $5 fee upon checking out.
The court system charges 50 cents per page for physical copies of filings at City Hall. That service will continue to be offered despite the new electronic purchasing system.
People interested in a court case can continue searching civil dockets by individual or other entity name and by docket number, they can continue to display a civil docket report, and they can search for civil judgments against people and businesses.
Those civil documents that are not under seal and that have been filed anytime after May 2008 will be available for purchase, the FJD announced.
Viewers do not need to create an account in order to preview and/or purchase documents, but rather will simply be required to supply an email address to which the documents could be delivered, as well as credit card information.
Once a filing is ordered, the user will receive an immediate email containing a link to where the complaint could be viewed.
Philadelphia’s Prothonotary, Joseph Evers, told the Legal Intelligencer newspaper Monday that his hope is that online users will eventually be able to view subpoena information as well.
The FJD’s chief innovate officer, Harold Palmer, told the paper the court system also plans to eventually supply court transcripts through the electronic filing system.