Strategies for Finding Court Documents
When a civil or criminal action is commenced, a docket number is assigned and a corresponding docket sheet created. There may be pleading and motions filed by parties and orders issued by the court, briefs, oral arguments and a final adjudication, issued with or without a reported opinion. As practices vary among jurisdictions and courts, it is valuable to learn strategies for finding these documents in different circumstances.
Currently the best place for court documents is Bloomberg Law. Their coverage of federal and state dockets is the most complete, as well as any underlying documents available electronically.
Westlaw and Lexis have also being growning their coverage, with a growing number of databases that provide briefs, dockets, court filings, and other documents that are within the scope of this research guide.
WestlawNext currently allows you to drill down through "Briefs" or "Trial Court Documents". Dockets and filings are available through Keycite as well.
In Westlaw.com, court documents can be located by, e.g., consulting the "Litigation" section of the Directory; the links to databases for briefs, dockets and court documents on the main Welcome to Westlaw page; and the "Petitions, Briefs and Filings" listed in the KeyCite report; or by selecting "Briefs and Other Related Documents" while viewing a court opinion on Westlaw.
Lexis Advance allows you to limit to "Briefs, Pleadings and Motions" or "Dockets." You can also select these tabs when you do a search from the initial screen.
In Lexis.com, court documents can be located by, e.g., consulting the main "Legal" tab, particularly the sections on "Briefs, Motions, Pleadings & Verdicts" and "Court Records from CourtLink."
For historical documents, here are some useful databases:
Page maintained by Jennifer Ekblaw
Last updated: March 2013