ALR Student’s Corner: Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER)


Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is a fee-based service that allows users to obtain case and docket information for all federal district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts.  PACER allows you to retrieve case specific information such as listings of parties (including judges and attorneys), cause of action, nature of the suit, judicial opinions and judgments or case status.  Dockets containing case events, as well as links to most documents filed in the case, are also available.   PACER currently contains 500 million case file documents.

You must set-up a PACER account before using the site.  You can register for free by using the PACER online registration form.  If you would like to try PACER before registering there is a training site available, as well.  There is no charge for accessing the training site.

The access fee for court documents is $0.08 per page.  The cost for a single document is capped at $2.40.  The cap does not apply to name searches, non-case specific reports and transcripts of court proceedings.  If, however, your usage does not exceed $10.00 in a quarter, fees for that quarter are waived.  Although PACER is fee based, the docket information is available in real time and is not as limited as with Westlaw.

After logging in, you can search cases in all federal courts using PACER’s global search or search individually by court.  A global search can be useful in determining whether or not someone is involved in federal litigation.  If you are searching for a specific case or case document and know the court where the case was filed, you would search that court’s PACER site individually.

By way of illustration, I will locate a document from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals case, United States v. Raimundo Martinez-Espinoza, using the case number, 10-5250.

1.  From the home page, select the “Find a Case” tab.

2.  Then select, “Search Individual Court PACER Web Sites.”

3.  Select “Fourth Circuit.”

4.  Clicking on the individual court takes you to the Case Search page.  Here you may search by case number or party name.  In “Advance Search” you can search by social security number or tax identification number in the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts and by case number, party name or filing date range in the U.S. District Courts and U.S. Courts of Appeals.  Here, I am searching by case number.

5.  Within the results you may view the docket and links to case documents by clicking on your case number in the results.  You will also see a Transaction Receipt for each page billed to your account.

6.  If your document appears on this report, click on the document number to view it.  If not, click the link for the full docket.  The full docket provides a chronological listing of events and documents in the case.

7.  You will then be prompted to accept the document charges before retrieving your document.

8.  Your document can now be viewed, saved, or printed.

~Melissa H. Moore,  L’13~

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Filed under Advanced Legal Research, electronic resources, Student Postings

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