Court documents are those materials filed in relation to a legal case before the courts. Examples of court documents would be dockets, pleadings, motions, memoranda, briefs, orders, and expert testimony. Not every case will include all of these examples. Prior to 1999, court documents in the federal system were not widely available electronically, and access by state still varies considerably. For older cases, it may be necessary to contact the courthouse directly.
These databases provide selected federal and state court records. They are expensive resources, and user passwords to access this content are generally restricted to law students and faculty or law firms.
PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) is an electronic subscription service provided by the federal judiciary that makes court documents available. PACER includes documents filed in federal district courts, bankruptcy courts, and appellate courts (federal circuit courts and the United States Supreme Court). Electronic filing is optional in most courts, so the database is not comprehensive. A login is required to search in PACER. The cost to search for court documents is minimal, but accounts are charged $.10/page up to 30 pages for each document that is downloaded. If you are affiliated with a court, an educational institution, or a law firm, you may have access to the organization's account. The University of Wyoming College of Law has an institutional account for students, staff, faculty, and patrons of the college. Some Pacer records are freely available through RECAP, discussed below.
PacerPro, like Justia Docket Search, is a free front-end search tool. It requires Pacer credentials and Pacer costs are incurred.
A less expensive option, Courtport is a portal that collects federal and state sites that post court records and other public records. Includes docket sheets, filings, rulings, calendars, motions, and other public records.
Access to select appellate and district court documents. By clicking on the "more information" link when looking at a court opinion, researchers can access the docket with links to selected court documents.
This site provides some free searching for bankruptcy documents. Premium searching is available for a charge. Cost of downloading documents is less than the Pacer prices.
The Justia Docket Search is a free front-end search engine linked to PACER, which can assist with locating preliminary information about a federal District Court or Circuit Court of Appeals case, generally from 2004-present. Justia Docket Search results provide basic information about a case, and link directly into PACER for additional results (such as the full docket sheet and full-text filings). This requires a PACER password. Selected cases may also include free copies of the documents themselves.
This guide links to briefs from federal and state appellate courts and advocacy groups.
RECAP is an organized movement to make PACER records freely available. Through this free Firefox or Chrome extension, select PACER documents are uploaded to RECAP, a free and open repository of public court records hosted by the Internet Archive. RECAP users who download documents from PACER automatically donate them to the RECAP database, making them available to future users for free.
Once the browser add-on has been downloaded, users log in to PACER and use it as normal. RECAP works behind the scenes to upload purchased documents and check for documents freely available. When a document in PACER is freely available, RECAP puts its icon next to the PACER link. Users then have an option to download the free RECAP version instead of paying for the PACER version.
Most documents filed electronically in the Wyoming Supreme Court are available from the Wyoming Supreme Court web site. They can be searched by case information (docket number, etc.), issue (subject), and participant (party). A procedures manual is available on the supreme court web site.
Electronically filed court documents for other states are generally available on the internet. Search states individually or at this site.
Collects links to state electronic filing sites.
Docket, opinions, order, schedules, and oral argument transcripts for cases argued since 2000.
Callers with touchtone may obtain status of cases through CARS (U.S. Supreme Court clerk's Automated Response System). A docket number or case name is required.
Somebankruptcy courts also have an automated response system for status, VCIS (Voice Case Information System).
These materials are fedeal records and access may be limited by federal rules and procedures.
The National Archives and Records Administration web site includes cases for which documents are to be permanently archived. These federal records become the property of the archives after an extended waiting period and are public record.