Finding Federal Court Records Online

Finding federal court records online has always seemed more difficult than it should be!  While Westlaw and LexisNexis provide access to the federal docket sheets that list the filings for each case, the filed documents themselves are not always available.  Instead, a service called “PACER” (an acronym for “Public Access to Court Electronic Records”) became the method of choice for obtaining federal court documents.  PACER is not without its shortcomings: there is a $0.10 per page fee (but a maximum charge of $3.00 per document), and some users complain of PACER’s clunky interface, limited functionality, and inability to update more than once a day.

PacerPro is a free commercial service offering a better way of searching federal court records.  Updating in “real time” from all 214 federal court sites, PacerPro provides a more streamlined search interface, the option of downloading an entire docket with a single click, and the ability to bookmark cases.  Using PacerPro still requires a PACER account, however, and users will generally still incur the charge of $0.10 per page.   PacerPro does not include documents from federal bankruptcy or appellate courts.

For NYLS students, Bloomberg Law remains an even better option.  Bloomberg provides full-text searching of federal and state court dockets and available filings.  Most importantly, all documents are available via Bloomberg for free to law students and faculty.