For efficient docket searching, try to find:
Case information can be found in published decisions, law reviews, treatises, newspapers and advocacy websites.
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.
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.
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
These sources provide access to Federal court dockets only. Full-text access to filings is usually not available.
The availability of state court records and briefs varies from court to court.
Recent state records & briefs from state appellate courts may be available online via legal databases.
Don't forget to check the state website. Many state courts also post recent appellate briefs on their courts' websites.
Older appellate briefs were also sometimes collected in print or microfilmed. They may be available through Interlibrary Loan from another library.
Some states, archives and libraries have begun to digitize their collections of briefs. See the section of this guide on State Court Records & Briefs by State for links to online sources for specific states.
If the briefs you need are not available via ILL from another library or via an online database, you may be able to get the briefs from either the court clerk or the archive that holds the records for the court.
Selected state court appellate records and briefs are available from these sources.
MA Records & Briefs Online
MA Records & Briefs in Print/Microfilm
MA Oral Arguments
MA Online Trial Court Filings
MA Archival Materials
NY Records & Briefs Online
NY Records & Briefs on Microform
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. It includes electronically available Federal court filings from PACER as well as some state and international filings.
Federal court records may also be available from PACER. Check with Harvard Law Reference about access.
The availability of state court filings varies from state to state and court to court. Some filings are available online directly from the court websites. For older materials you may still need to contact the court or archives directly.
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:
For notable or historical trials, transcripts of testimony might be included in books, pamphlets or newspapers. Check HOLLIS or one of our trial resources.
If the briefs and filings that you need aren't available online, try contacting the court or the state archives.
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.
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.
Advocacy groups and government agencies often post their briefs. This is a selected list of groups that post their briefs online:
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.
Lexis Advance provides access to Bankruptcy briefs and pleadings
WestlawNext provides access to briefs by legal topic.
More on interesting uses for court documents:
A formal record in which a judge or court clerk briefly notes all the proceedings and filings in a court case
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.
Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary