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.
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.
LegalDockets is a free portal that collects federal and state sites that post court records and select 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.
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.
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 Free Law Project and available at Court Listener. RECAP pushes docket information to the Internet Archive on a quarterly basis.. 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).
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.
Some bankruptcy courts have an automated response system for status, VCIS (Voice Case Information System).
These materials are federal 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.