Thursday, July 9, 2020

Resources for Docket Research

This week's Legal Research Bootcamp session on dockets came at just the right time! Whether you’re a law student enrolled in the online bootcamp or not, you may be interested in several important changes to major resources for researching court filings.

Last week, the federal court site PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) unveiled a redesign to its home page and informational sections, the first such cosmetic change in more than ten years. (The PACER database in which users search for and retrieve case filings was not part of this redesign.) Legal blogger Bob Ambrogi outlines the changes, which include improved navigation, new accessibility tools, and a mobile-friendly design. The site also provides easy access to PACER's fees and billing information. PACER requires account-holders to have a payment method on file, although users are not charged unless they accrue $30.00 of charges (at a cost of $0.10 per page) during a billing quarter.

Members of the Law School community likely use Bloomberg Law as an alternative to PACER, as their Litigation Intelligence Center has long provided law schools with subsidized access to PACER materials, as well as to selected state court docket filings. Recently, Bloomberg announced a change to law school docket access that limits educational account usage and provides warnings for excessive docket access (with the possibility of suspension, in the event of prohibited uses like automated data-scraping). Under the new system, there will be caps on incurring docket charges for both individual users and the institutional subscriber. Heavy docket users may receive separate communications from administrators to discuss the most efficient and cost-effective ways to receive docket information. (Viewing dockets or documents already available to "View" in Bloomberg does not incur costs; these new limits are related to tasks like setting up alerts, updating dockets, and downloading documents that are not yet available in "View" mode within Bloomberg Law.)

With both PACER and Bloomberg Law now leaving users a bit more cost-conscious, what should the average researcher in search of a court filing do? It's certainly a good idea to look for free access to the needed documents.
For help with locating court filings from a state or federal case, check out the above resources or Ask a Librarian.