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Free and Low Cost Legal Research: PACER - Charge of 10 cents per page

Fastcase, Casemaker, Pacer, Casenet, Free Internet Resources. Federal and Missouri materials.

What is in this database?

Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) provides case and docket documents from Federal Appellate, District and Bankruptcy courts via the Internet.

Electronic Case filing on PACER

PACER is built to display documents filed electronically from the Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) system, used by the Federal Judiciary for all bankruptcy, district and appellate courts. CM/ECF allows courts to accept filings and provide access to filed documents over the Internet.

Not sure how to use CM/ECF? No problem, here are some training modules.

Pros and Cons

Cons

  • Searching stinks.  Even with recent updates to the interface, it really only allows for known item searching, meaning you have to know something about the case you are looking for.
  • A few courts don't contribute.  Coverage varies by court.
  • PACER is not free. There is a cost for each search and each document viewed.

Pros

  • Sometimes PACER is the only game in town to get the document you need.
  • Full document images are available.
  • PACER is very quick to make items availabe electronically.  Once something has been added via CM/ECF, it is immediately available in PACER.

Search Tips

Key Tips

  • There is a new search screen in town at https://pcl.uscourts.gov/search to replace the US Party/Case Index.  Searching is still very limited. The options vary according to the court being searched, but usually you'll be given a party name, case title, and case number with some limits for jurisdiction and date.
  • Give RECAP a try.  RECAP is a Firefox extension that adds PACER documents to a public archive when they have been previously downloaded by another RECAP user.  Learn more at https://www.recapthelaw.org/

PACER Frequently Asked Questions

    $earching PACER: Pay-Per-View

    Access to court documents costs $0.10 per page. The cost to access a single document is capped at $3.00, the equivalent of 30 pages. The cap does not apply to name searches, reports that are not case-specific and transcripts of federal court proceedings.  By Judicial Conference policy, if your usage does not exceed $15 in a quarter, fees for that quarter are waived, effectively making the service free for most users.

    How it works: When a search is performed, you will be charged 10 cents for each page of results you view or download. Every search will incur a minimum charge of 10 cents. Up to 54 hits will appear on each page of search results. You will be able to scroll through search results one page at a time and/or download the entire results. You will only be billed for a page if you view or download it. Once you have been charged for a page of search results, you will be not be charged again.

    Accessing the Database

    PACER charges 10 cents per page. Click here for FAQ.

     

    Other Options

    Dockets may also be found in Justia (back to 2004).