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Dockets and Pleadings: Federal

Locating dockets, pleadings, and related materials for federal, state, and select international courts.

More Guides

UCLA Law Library - Online Legal Research, Federal Courts & Case Law tab

U Washington Law Library - Judicial Branch Publications

 

Overview

United States Courts provides a map with links to sites of federal courts, from the Federal Judiciary.  It also includes court records, official forms, court rules, caseload statistics, and publications and reports. 

Villanova University's Federal Court Locator gives information on various federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, circuit courts, and district courts.

For the most part, electronic versions of filings will only be available for federal cases after 2003, though this date will vary court by court, and by case type.  For example, in the Southern District of New York, judges started using the electronic court filing system (ECFS) in 2004, but even today, not all filings are electronic because it is up to the parties to provide electronic documents.  In criminal and bankruptcy cases, access to online filings older than the last 3 years (approximately) is restricted in the ECFS systems.  These are only accessible physically from the courthouse. 

PACER and RECAP

PACER provides docket information from bankruptcy, district, and circuit courts, generally from 1996 to the present.  Many of the pleadings listed in the docket is available full-text, some in PDF.  PACER is a subscription-based service and is only for librarian use at the Reference Desk.  You are welcome to set up your own account at this registration page.  The current fee is 10 cents per page.

RECAP and RECAP Archive - Many pleadings from PACER have been uploaded to RECAP, an initiative to provide greater open acess to the public records in PACER.  RECAP is a Firefox add-on that needs to be installed and is only active in the Firefox browser.  However, the RECAP Archive is available on all browsers and does not require an add-on installation.

Bloomberg Law

Bloomberg Law offers dockets for both federal and state courts (see State tab).  The dockets database is user-friendly and those who would like to request a Bloomberg Law account need only fill out a form with your name and email, or contact Ellen Augustiniak at eaugustiniak@law.uci.edu

To begin your docket search, click on "Dockets" underneath "Research Tools" in the homepage.  A Dockets Search window will appear.  Once you have retrieved a docket sheet, be sure to click on the "Update Docket" link above the docket sheet.  To view changes and additions to the docket since the last updated date (shown at the top of the sheet), click on "Update Docket" and then click on "Submit."  You can view the results of the updated docket by going to the email inbox associated with your Bloomberg account.

You can view some of the underlying documents by clicking next to the docket item numbers which appear as chronologically assigned numbers on the far left side of the docket sheet.  Retrieve documents that have already been previously uploaded to Bloomberg by clicking View.  Documents that have not been previously uploaded can be requested by clicking Request.  You can then check for the result by going to the email inbox associated with your Bloomberg account.  If the document is available, you will receive a link to the item; if it is not, your email will read "The document you have requested requires a courier to retrieve."  This service is not available under UCI's subscription plan.   

Lexis Advance and Westlaw

When accessing a specific case on Lexis Advance and/or Westlaw, a link to available related documents and court filings will be provided at the top of the page. These links generally include PDFs of dockets, briefs, law and motion pleadings, and orders. The documents available will vary widely, depending upon the jurisdiction and time period of the case.

Dockets for a particular case may also be searched in separate databases.

To search federal court dockets on Lexis Advance, click on Dockets from the home page under the "Content Type" tab. Lexis Advance gives the option of searching Dockets by Practice Area. 

To search federal court dockets on Westlaw, click on Dockets from the home page under the "All Content" tab.  Westlaw provides dockets for U.S. District courts (2000-present), U.S. Courts of Appeals and Bankruptcy Courts (1997-present), and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Tax Court, and Court of Federal Claims (2000-present). Westlaw dockets include the basic case summary information as well as the itemized list of filings. In some cases, the documents will be linked in PDF below the entries on the docket sheet. (In other cases, there will be a link to "Send Runner to the Court"; this service is not available to educational accounts.)

On Westlaw, type in "dockets" in the universal search box.  This will take you to the Dockets page where you can search all courts or specific courts.  Each court's coverage will vary.  WL also gives the option of searching dockets by topic.