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If you want to find a specific court case online, your most reliable option could be googling the name of activist groups like the ACLU, state or government organizations like the Justice Department or Attorney General, or the name of a law firm involved in the filing. They might have posted it on their site. Those aren’t the only options; we’ve compiled some additional and excellent sources to find court records online.
Some legal organizations and libraries post court documents and dockets online for free. One trustworthy source of court documents and dockets is the American Bar Association, which has an unofficial collection of calendars and briefs for cases viewed by the Supreme Court over the past two decades.
The blog section of SCOTUS is another option. It features extensive coverage of cases the US Supreme Court has heard. It tracks current cases and has daily posts with links to lower court stances, briefs, and verdicts.
The 9th Circuit Court has digital briefs, created with the support of UC Hastings Law Library. The National Archives catalog has a database of high-profile federal cases, which is publicly available online. You can also see records that haven’t been scanned and posted in exchange for a fee in the section “Depositories.”
You could look for free court filings and dockets elsewhere, but we advise you to exercise caution. They might not be accurate or complete.
Googling the name of the litigant or case might yield filings on a personal blog, a news website, or a website dedicated to archiving materials not subject to copyright. Examples of the last are archive.org, Google Books, and HathiTrust. You could also try sites focusing on a concrete legal issue.
Free Court Documents and Dockets
The site Free Court Dockets has a directory of more than 1,000 unofficial and official sites with federal and state court dockets, forms, and rulings.
Users of PACER Pro can search for, retrieve, and save case information quickly and easily. You can access documents previous users have pulled up for free. You can also check the site of the courthouse where the case was filed. Anyone can find bankruptcy, district, and appellate docket and court case information in PACER’s electronic database. If you aren’t sure which court heard the case, PACER’s Case Locator can help you.
It’s possible to do a nationwide search to see if someone you know was involved in a federal case. The database is always current thanks to its daily updates. If you know which court the case was filed with, you can even access the documents in real time.
Cases filed before 1999 are only available on paper. They can be accessed at a Federal Records Centers (FRCs) or through the court that heard the case. To obtain more information, you need to get in touch with the court where the case was filed.
PACER also gives users free access to court opinions. Thanks to a partnership with the GPO (publishing office of the US government), you can get them in text searchable format for free.
Court Record Access by Phone
The VCIS (Voice Case Information System) covers all bankruptcy courts. This phone info service makes it possible for callers to get basic case details 24/7 for free.
You can use NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) to view older historical court records. Case files and court records that become eligible to be preserved permanently are transferred here and are directly accessible.
Anyone can use RECAP to access files that PACER has previously retrieved. Any documents you buy from PACER can be saved and shared automatically via RECAP’s free browser extensions. Yet, it’s worth keeping in mind that RECAP can’t guarantee completeness or reliability of records because the system relies on users to upload the documents.
Supreme Court of California Resources (SCOCAL) is a project of Stanford University aimed at making materials from the California Supreme Court available to the public. These include docket information, briefs, annotations law students have written, judges’ biographies, and even links to news reports on some of the cases. Some of these resources date back to the Great Depression!
California Court of Appeals
LA Law Library provides access to briefs filed with this court. More recent ones are available for free in pdf format. If you want an older appellate brief, you need to request online delivery of the full text or retrieve it from LLMC’s digital database. Neither option is free.