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Court Records

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The predominant type of record the Federal courts create and maintain is a case file, which contains a docket sheet and all documents filed in a case. There are different ways to obtain the information.

The Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an internet-based public access service. This allows users to locate cases using the Case Locator and to obtain case and docket information from Federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts.

Information on accessing opinions and
case-related documents for the Supreme Court of the United States is available on the court’s website.

How do I access paper case files?

Most case files created prior to 1999 are maintained in paper format only. Paper case files may be stored at the courthouse or at one of the Federal Records Centers (FRCs). A case file may be obtained through the court or directly from the FRC. Contact the court in which the case was filed for more information.

How do I access electronic case files?

Since 1999, many case files are maintained in electronic format and are accessible through the internet service Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) or from the public access terminals in the clerk’s office of the court in which the case was filed.

Are court records available by telephone?

In most bankruptcy courts there is a telephone information system (the Voice Case Information System) which enables callers to obtain basic case information through the use of a touchtone phone. These systems are free and available 24 hours a day.

Are case files saved permanently?

Some case files are maintained permanently and some are destroyed after a period of time. Case files are preserved in accordance with established records schedules.

How do I locate older historical court records?

When court records (case files) are eligible for permanent preservation, they are transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for storage and preservation. Records in the National Archives are available for public access from NARA. Those who conduct genealogical research are typical customers serviced by NARA.

Is there a fee?

Electronic records and paper court records retained at the court site can be viewed for free. If a case file has to be requested from the Federal Records Center (FRC), there is a $64 fee to retrieve the file for viewing. There is fee of 10 cents per page to access a file through Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), with a maximum charge of $3.00 per document. There is a fee of 10 cents per page to print from a public access terminal at the courthouse. It costs 50 cents to copy a paper document at the courthouse.