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COURT DOCUMENTS ONLINE Mary M. McCormick FSU Law Library, Spring 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "COURT DOCUMENTS ONLINE Mary M. McCormick FSU Law Library, Spring 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 COURT DOCUMENTS ONLINE Mary M. McCormick FSU Law Library, Spring 2005

2 Federal Courts U.S Supreme Court Appellate Courts 12 circuits organized by region Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Trial Courts 94 Federal districts, including a bankruptcy court U.S. Court of Federal Claims Court of International Trade

3 Federal Courts – Some Statistics * US Courts of Appeals 56,534 cases filed in 2002 (+.8% over 2001) 39,536 cases pending at the end of 2002 (-2.6% from 2001) US District Courts – Civil Cases 265,091 cases filed in 2002 (+4.2% over 2001) 265,321 cases pending at the end of 2002 (+6.5% over 2001) US District Courts – Criminal Cases 63,515 cases filed in 2002 (+.1% over 2001) 52,713 cases pending at the end of 2002 (+9.7% over 2001) *

4 Federal Court Documents: Why Do You Need Them? Only 3.2% of federal civil cases make it to trial completion Only 11% of federal criminal cases make it to trial completion Only 15% of federal district court decisions are reported Only 50-70% of federal appellate court decisions are reported (varies by Circuit)

5 Federal Court Documents: Why Do You Need Them? Almost all federal and state trial court decisions, and 30-50% of all federal and state appellate court decisions are unreported Documents filed by the parties with the courts can be very useful for many reasons

6 Docket Sheets v. Documents Many courts now post docket sheets Docket sheets are a chronological table of contents to a court file Sample Docket Sheet Fewer courts post documents filed with the Court

7 Docket Sheets Answer the questions Has my client been sued but not served? Who else has sued the party my client wants to sue? Serve as a current awareness tool Who is suing who Hot topics in litigation

8 Docket Sheets Provide information about clients and potential clients Is the client litigious? Has the client filed for bankruptcy? Has the client been involved in fraud? Has the client filed a legal malpractice action? Has the client been sued for attorney’s fees?

9 Docket Sheets Provide information about potential hires Routine background checks Bankruptcy Debt Fraud Conflicts between firm and prospective hire’s existing clients

10 Filed Documents Fewer courts permit electronic access to documents filed with the court Filed Documents can include Sample pleadings Missing pleadings Background information on the types of cases heard by particular judges Types of cases opposing counsel usually deals with How judge typically rules on motion for summary judgment

11 Federal Courts Online PACER: Public Access to Court Electronic Records Electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case information Docket information Documents From federal courts Courts of Appeal (not all courts of appeal) District and Bankruptcy courts U.S. Party/Case Index (not all courts)

12 PACER Home Page


14 Florida Courts on Pacer

15 Federal Court Documents U.S. Party/Case Index (on PACER) National index for U.S. district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts A small subset of information from each case is transferred each night to the U.S. Party/Case Index server located in San Antonio, Texas at the PACER Service Center The system serves as a locator index for PACER You may conduct nationwide searches to determine whether or not a party is involved in federal litigation.

16 PACER: U.S. Party-Case Index




20 State Court Documents Some state courts now load filed pleadings and other court documents, too. Leon County Clerk of Court Dockets High-profile cases Online interactive court forms Other Florida courts Docket information and high-profile cases only pursuant to Florida Supreme Court Administrative Order AOSC04-4AOSC04-4

21 Florida Supreme Court Documents Florida Supreme Court Briefs and Records ProjectFlorida Supreme Court Briefs and Records Project Florida law school consortium database of briefs and opinions Maintained by FSU College of Law Library

22 Other Court Resources Courtlink: (Lexis front-end to PACER, permitting better searching of the PACER databases)Courtlink Mealey’s: (Lexis publications in (mostly) litigation areas, with some court documentsMealey’s CourtExpress: (front end for PACER and a document delivery service)CourtExpress Legal Dockets Online WestDocket DOCK-FL-SDCT DOCK-DCT-ALL Westlaw Lawsuit Filings LS-FL LS-ALL

23 Why Use Commercial Services? PACER searching is clunky; commercial services have enhanced searching capability PACER doesn’t offer document delivery if the court doesn’t participate in Electronic Court Filing (ECF)




27 Additional Resources LLRX: ttp:// Findlaw: Google: (use party names or docket number)

28 Caselaw - Unreported Unreported decisions are judicial opinions that have not been published in any official or near-official case reporter. They are also called "unpublished decisions," "unreported opinions" and "unpublished opinions.“ Federal unreported decisions may be found on Lexis and Westlaw. Unreported decisions from state cases may be found in a local/regional legal newspaper or on Lexis or Westlaw. Opinions can also be retrieved from the relevant court.

29 Caselaw – Where to Find It for Free US Supreme Court: Official Slip Opinions: http://www.supremecourtus.gov Legal Information Institute: LexisONE: (Click on “Find Cases for Free”) US Circuit Courts: Office of US Courts: Federal Courts Finder: US District Courts: Office of US Courts: Legal Information Institute:

30 Caselaw – Using Legal Newspapers Regional Legal News Sources: American Lawyer Media publications: (see Newspapers) Lawyers Weekly publications: Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

31 Need Answers? Zimmerman’s Guide: An online legal encyclopedia providing definitions, examples, explanations and useful links The Virtual Chase How-To Guides: An annotated guide to sources of information on various types of legal research Court documents guide: Public Law Libraries: AALL State, Court and County Libraries SIS

32 Need Answers? LLRX: Court Rules, Forms, and Dockets

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