News and information useful to Cleveland-Marshall College of Law students, faculty and staff.

Federal Courts Vote for More Free Access

The Judicial Conference of the United States voted to increase free PACER access from $10.00 annually to $10.00 quarterly.  (Thanks to the Blog of Legal Times).  PACER is the docket for nearly all the federal courts, except for the U.S. Supreme Court.  For many cases, full text of filings are available.   PACER costs 8 cents per page for dockets and filings, but opinions are free.

Students are encouraged to set up a PACER account and try accessing a docket.   You will not be billed until the $10.00 quarterly limit is exceeded.  Attorneys use PACER not only for cases where they are representing a party in that case, but also to research whether a person or business has been involved in litigation or has filed for bankruptcy.  PACER is also used to find examples of pleadings and motions which an attorney is attempting to draft.  One can search PACER by party name docket number, court and type of action.   To find a case with a specific type of pleading or motion, you may want to find a case on point in a case opinion database first, and then go to PACER.

Cost Saving Tips from Law Firm Librarians

Sue Altmeyer, Electronic Services Librarian, | November 04, 2009 – 18:49

Recently, I had the pleasure of doing a guest lecture for Professor Niedringhaus’s Advanced Legal Research Class. Check out my PowerPoint on cost effective legal research.

Additionally, two local law firm librarians shared their insights on cost effective research. Here are some of their tips:

  • Consult your librarian, a partner or a senior associate to find out the terms of your Westlaw or Lexis plan and to see what databases are outside of your plan.
  • Start with print sources before going online. Ask the librarian or an attorney who specializes in the area you are researching to recommend major treatises.
  • Use reliable free or low cost Internet sources.GPO Access/FDsys and PACER were two of the favorites mentioned.



PACER, the federal court docket, can be used to find whether a person or company has been involved in litigation, has filed for bankruptcy or has a federal criminal conviction. It is also a great source for sample pleadings and motions, as the full text of the documents filed in many cases can be retrieved. It is low-cost, at eight cents a page.

Opinions are free on PACER, and you can avoid the cost of pulling the docket by using, if you know the case number. For cases 2004 and later, you can find a case number for free by searching by party name on Justia dockets. See our prior post Free Federal Dockets.

Pacer: Find Federal Court Dockets, Pleadings and Now Transcripts Too!

Sue Altmeyer, Electronic Services Librarian, | September 19, 2007 – 17:22

The Judicial Conference of the United States recently voted to make transcripts of federal district and bankruptcy court cases available on PACER (the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system). Ninety days after they are delivered to the clerk, transcripts can be viewed, downloaded, or printed from PACER for eight cents per page. See U.S. Courts Press Release. Source: WisBlawg.

pacer logoThe Library subscribes to Pacer. Cleveland-Marshall faculty, staff and students who need Pacer documents should contact a reference librarian. Otherwise, to access PACER, you must register and provide credit card information. PACER charges 8 cents a page for search results and documents retrieved, but opinions are free. There is a per document cap of $2.40 (30 pages). No fee is owed until an account holder accrues charges of more than $10 in a calendar year. PACER charges money because Congress provided no funds for electronic public access.

PACER was created about a decade ago to provide electronic access to court dockets. Around 2001, courts started to make pdf copies of the documents filed in a case accessible too. Today, most federal appellate courts, district courts and bankruptcy courts have dockets and filings accessible through PACER. The U.S. Supreme Court docket is not on PACER.

For more information on finding court dockets, see the library’s guide: Resources for Finding Court Dockets.