Compared to state court documents, federal court case documents are frequently available electronically. U.S. District and Appellate case dockets and filings are available via the federal system's Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). Attorneys practicing in federal courts not only use PACER to download case documents, they also file case documents directly through this system. The UCLA law library does not have an institutional subscription that students, faculty, and staff can search, but most of the resources below pull their documents directly from PACER. When you cannot locate the item you need electronically, you can contact the court directly using the federal court Lookup tool.
There are several free options for obtaining federal court case dockets and documents (below). None of the databases have 100% of all cases, but it is always best to start with the free sources and then move to the subscription sources only when needed, as costs add up quickly!
RECAP (PACER spelled backwards) is a free, publicly accessible database of federal court filings (U.S. District and Appellate courts). You do not need an account to search. It collects court filings through its users via a browser extension. When a user has the RECAP extension installed and is using PACER, every docket or PDF purchased on PACER is added to RECAP’s archive.
Justia has select case dockets and documents for U.S. District and Appellate court cases. There are several different search options:
Supreme Court case documents are often available for free right on the Supreme Court's website. Check the following pages:
For more detailed information about accessing Supreme Court materials, check out our SCOTUS LibGuide.
The UCLA law library has subscriptions with the database providers below, such that UCLA law students, faculty, and staff may search them. That said, we recommend developing the habit of searching free sources first: one reason being that once in practice, you will be paying heavily for access to the databases below; the second reason being that Bloomberg limits academic account access both individually and institutionally. Therefore, it is best practice to use these systems for docket access only after exhausting other options.
Lexis has select case documents from federal courts. There are several different databases for locating case filings:
Additionally, law school users have access to Lexis Courtlink, which has select dockets and case documents.
For patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright, antitrust, and securities cases, Docket Navigator is a great option for both dockets and documents. UCLA Law members may obtain a free academic account by emailing email@example.com.
Bloomberg Law has dockets and case documents for select state and federal courts, accessible through its Litigation Intelligence Center. Try the "Dockets Advanced Search" to input any details you have about the case, e.g. party name, court, date.
**Note that UCLA Law accounts have restrictions on how many pages may be downloaded. If you have a particularly large download project, please contact a librarian for more information before searching.**