Obtaining Information about Cases (for Journalists)

There are two steps to obtaining current information about a case pending in the court and keeping up-to-date with developments in the case: 

Viewing the Online Docket via PACER

PACER is the judiciary’s electronic method of providing access to court dockets and to copies of documents filed with the court. You may register for PACER online (www.pacer.gov. . .). There is no registration fee, but the Judicial Conference of the United States has established a user fee to be collected for access to PACER by all registered agencies or individuals:

Access to case information 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 are waived.

(Quoted from www.pacer.gov . . . )

Via PACER, you can examine the docket for a particular case, which will provide the names of all parties, the names and contact information for the attorneys of record and an itemization of every document filed in the case by name, filer and date. Case documents are accessible from the docket via hyperlinks.

You can also run a filtered search for written opinions, which are required to be made available to the public at no charge under the E-Government Act. Instructions are in the Web slide show on the main Media web page.   

Registering for Email Notifications through CM/ECF

The court also makes it possible for journalists and interested members of the public to register for so-called "Special Mailing Group (SMG)" accounts within the court's electronic filing system. Sign up for an account. 

Once you have your ECF account, you can sign up for Notices of Electronic Filing ("NEFs") in particular cases. Learn how to sign up for NEFs

Once you have registered for NEFs in a particular case, you will receive notification via email that a document is available to be viewed electronically via PACER.

NEFs will tell you:

  • Who filed the document
  • Who was served with electronic (e-mail) notice of the filing electronically
  • Date and time of filing
  • Document(s) title(s)
  • Docket text associated with the document(s)
  • On which party's behalf the document was submitted
  • A hyperlink to open a Adobe PDF copy of the document. (If you open the hyperlink, you will be prompted to log into PACER to view/download the document.)