Monday, September 15, 2008
Courting a Good Story
A story on how presidential candidates and other politicians become entangled in frivolous lawsuits, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/staff/michael_doyle/story/52375.html, shows the power and limitations of PACER.
PACER is the federal judiciary's online access. Legal pleadings, opinions and more can be found for district and appellate courts. It's really terrific. When a federal judge last week routinely dismissed a case against Barack Obama, I used PACER to quickly find other cases against other politicians. Simply plug in the name of a politician and search. Here's the lede:
The dismissal of a prisoner's $10 million lawsuit this week against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama shows how nagging litigation comes with the political territory.
PACER provided everything I needed from the comfort of my desk -- but, for some reason, the original complaint filed against Obama wasn't online. I didn't really need the complaint for my story, I could write around it. It was a Friday, I felt lazy. Grumble, grumble, stupid PACER. I finally moved my lazy behind down to Judiciary Square. Hurrah!. The court file included documents unavailable electronically, including letters sent from Obama's staff to the prison inmate, a heroin dealer now in federal Supermax prison. They provided this kicker, from Obama's constituent service director to the federal inmate.
"Good luck in your future endeavors."