1 February 2007. As
attorneys and other professional researchers continue to grow more
comfortable with the improving technology for obtaining court case
dockets and filings, they have come to expect instant comprehensive
results using the Internet. Since CM/ECF systems have been
successfully implemented throughout the U.S.,
some researchers incorrectly assume that all case dockets and
filings can be located and downloaded using CM/ECF. It's
important to recognize that certain court case information is not
presently contained within a CM/ECF database.
The following are not accessible using CM/ECF.
Supreme Court as well as state, county
and local court dockets: Although
this is well known by many, some forget CM/ECF is only used in
U.S. Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts, U.S. Courts of
Appeals, the U.S. Court of Federal
Claims, and the U.S. Court of
International Trade. However, the U.S.
Supreme Court and many state, county and local courts do offer
case information online using systems other than CM/ECF.
Most U.S. Courts of Appeals:
Presently only the Eighth Circuit and Tenth Circuit BAP uses CM/ECF.
However, dockets from all other
circuit courts can be obtained using their respective Web PACER
databases. Implementation of CM/ECF in all remaining U.S.
circuit courts has been ongoing for many months and will be
completed this year.
California Central Bankruptcy Court:
Los Angeles Division cases closed January 2001
and prior. These dockets and filings
can be accessed using the Racer system. This is the last Racer
database still being used by any court in the country.
California Southern Bankruptcy Court:
Cases closed prior to 1997. These dockets and filings can be
accessed by using the Web PACER system.
Illinois Central Bankruptcy Court:
Most cases filed prior to January 2004. These dockets can be
accessed using the Web PACER system.
Indiana Southern District Court:
All criminal and civil cases opened before July 1, 2002. These
dockets can be obtained for free from the court's
online JAMS system.
Northern Mariana Islands Bankruptcy
Court: This court used to provide
access to case information, but the
database now appears to be inactive while the court prepares to
Virgin Islands District Court:
These dockets and documents can be accessed for free using the
court's Web Pacer system.
Wisconsin Western District Court:
Dockets can be obtained using the Web PACER system. This will be
the last federal district court in the U.S. to implement CM/ECF.
In addition to these small gaps in CM/ECF
data, there are still a few courts that do not participate in the
U.S. Party/Case Index. The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the
Second, Fifth, Seventh and Eleventh Circuits, and the New Mexico
District Court presently are not included. This is important to keep
in mind when conducting nationwide litigation searches using this
While attorneys may not regularly
need access to case information or dockets,
it's important to know what's
available online, and how to obtain it. Why waste
valuable time and money contracting a document retrieval company to
obtain dockets and filings that are available online?
© 2007 Paul Bush all rights reserved.
Paul Bush is an electronic services
analyst with the New York City-based
international law firm, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, LLP,
which ranked in the top 15 of The American Lawyer's
A-List. He is the founder and manager of