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Records, Briefs & Court Filings

Getting Started

Before you start

For efficient docket searching, try to find:

  • Docket/Case number
  • Party names
  • Dates
  • Court

Case information can be found in published decisions, law reviews, treatises, newspapers and advocacy websites.​

Where to start

For current federal and state briefs, docket sheets and court filings, some non-U.S.filings:

For current federal and state appellate briefs:

For federal dockets and court filings:

For records and briefs from historic U.S. Supreme Court cases:

Your Librarian

Mindy Kent
Harvard Law School Library
Areeda 523
1545 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
Subjects:Law, Legal History

U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court News

The latests updates from SCOTUS Blog:


Supreme Court Starting Points

These databases can provide a good starting point for your search , but coverage varies from case to case.

You may need to check multiple sources to collect a complete set of documents for a given Supreme Court case. 




More Sources for Supreme Court Briefs

Current sources

Too new?  It can take time for new briefs to show up in databases. Try searching newspapers, blogs & advocacy group websites to see if anyone has posted the briefs online.

Historical Collections

Supreme Court Dockets

Petitions for Certiorari

Supreme Court Appendices

Supreme Court Oral Arguments


Audio & Transcripts

Audio Only

Supreme Court Data Sources

U.S. Federal Courts

Federal Dockets & Full-Text Filings

Harvard Law School Users: BloombergLaw is your best starting point for access to electronically available federal and state case filings. 

Bloomberg dockets are also available at the Bloomberg terminal on the 4th floor of the Law Library

Federal Dockets

These sources provide access to Federal court dockets only. Full-text access to filings is usually not available. 

Federal Briefs, Petitions & Oral Arguments

By Circuit

1st Circuit

2d Circuit

3d Circuit

4th Circuit

5th Circuit

6th Circuit

7th Circuit

8th Circuit

9th Circuit

10th Circuit

11th Circuit

DC & Federal Circuit

Other ways to get Federal Court documents

Older appellate briefs were sometimes collected in print or microfilmed, and may be available through ILL from another library or directly from a court or archive. Use these sources to locate a library, court or archive.

Map showing boundaries of US Circuit courts

State Courts

State Briefs & Filings Online

State Oral Arguments

Sources for State Records, Briefs and Court Filings

The availability of state court records and briefs varies from court to court.

Recent state court appellate briefs and filings may be available online from the court or from vendors such as Westlaw or Lexis.

Older appellate briefs were soemtimes collected in print or microfilmed. They may be available through Interlibrary Loan from another library.

If what you need is not available online or on microfilm or microfiche, you may be able to order copies from the state archives or court clerk. Be aware that there may be a fee for copying.

State Court and Archives Links

If the briefs and filings that you need aren't available online, try contacting the court or the state archives.


Massachusetts Briefs, Records & Filings



Oral Arguments

Online Trial Court Filings

New York

New York Briefs, Records & Findings



Court Filings & Trials

General Sources

Historically, trial court documents were only available by contacting the court or the parties. With electronic filing systems, court documents are increasingly available online.

BloombergLaw is usually the best bet for finding electronic court filings. Federal District and Bankruptcy court records are avialable from PACER. The availability of state filings varies from state to state. For older materials you may still need to contact the court.

Trial Transcripts

Trial transcripts are the written record of the testimony given during a trial. Availability of trial transcripts varies. 

For cases that were appealed, check the record for the appellate case.

For cases that were not appealed:

  • Check Westlaw for selected transcripts from some courts.
  • Check PACER or BloombergLaw dockets for transcripts. Transcripts requested by the parties are sometimes included in the docket.
  • Contact the court to have a transcript produced for a fee. 

For notable or historical trials, transcripts of testimony might be included in books, pamphlets or newspapers.  Check HOLLIS or one of our trial resources. 

State Court and Archives Links

If the briefs and filings that you need aren't available online, try contacting the court or the state archives.

Notable and Historical Trials

Accounts and documents for notable trials were sometimes published in books, newspapers or pamphlets. Others have been gathered into historical databases. Other trial documents can be found in libraries and archives.

  • Search newspapers for accounts of the trial. This research guide gives tips for using Harvard's newspaper collection
  • Search historical full-text databases. 
  • Search the web - schools, universities, historical societies, museums and other interest groups sometimes post information on famous trials. 

HLSL Historical & Special Collections

Our Historical and Special Collections department has also digitized some significant and historically interesting trial records and accounts. Additional digital collections from HSC can be found on their web page.

Other Sources

Selected Topical Sources

Advocacy groups and government agencies often post their briefs. This is a selected list of groups that post their briefs online:

Fee-Based Courier Services

Court Briefs and Filings from Outside of the US

Court documents from international courts and courts in non-US jurisdictions are not widely available. Court decisions and documents are more likely to be available in common law systems than in civil law systems.

BloombergLaw has selected court filings from the UK, the European Union, Hong ong, Canada, the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands and the Royal Court of Jersey.

If what you need isn't available from Bloomberg, try contacting the court directly.

Briefs by Subject

Lexis Advance provides access to Bankruptcy briefs and pleadings

WestlawNext provides access to briefs by legal topic.

Why Records & Briefs?

Why Records & Briefs?

  • To gain insights into legal reasoning used by the parties in advocating their position
  • To identify the authorities used to support an argument
  • To find specific documents from a trial
  • To find transcripts of testimony and other sources for historical research

More on interesting uses for court documents:

Find Info Like a Pro: Investigating Court Docket Databases (American Bar Association)  




A formal record in which a judge or court clerk briefly notes all the proceedings and filings in a court case

Docket Number:

A number that the court clerk assigns to a case on the court's docket.


A particular document (such as a pleading) in the file of a court clerk or record custodian


A formal document in which a party to a legal proceeding (esp. a civil lawsuit) sets forth or responds to allegations, claims, denials, or defenses.

In federal civil procedure, the main pleadings are the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's answer


A written statement setting out the legal contentions of a party in litigation, esp. on appeal; a document prepared by counsel as the basis for arguing a case, consisting of legal and factual arguments and the authorities in support of them


The official report of the proceedings in a case, including the filed papers, a verbatim transcript of the trial or hearing (if any), and tangible exhibits.

The records of a case may include pleadings, motions, trial transcripts, orders, instructions to juries, judgments and other materials. Contents of the  the published record for each case varies widely.


 A handwritten, printed, or typed copy of testimony given orally; esp., the official record of proceedings in a trial or hearing, as taken down by a court reporter. — Also termed report of proceedingsreporter's record


Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary

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