Sunday, February 15, 2009

Federal District Court Briefs Online - For Free

As noted in yesterday's post, there is a movement afoot to allow more public access to federal district court civil case filings. This trend is of real benefit to legal researchers. One of the best sources and one of the least utilized sources of organized legal information are the briefs being filed in various courts. True, many briefs are available through Westlaw and Lexis but these have a price tag for access. And, access through PACER, the federal court database, can be costly and all too clunky.

How to access for free? Consider using They are compiling federal district court dockets and associated documents in many recent civil cases. Here is their portal to federal district court filings.

How to utilize this resource? Two ways come immediately to mind:
1. allows the researcher to browse by type of case and to limit the field of cases to a particular jurisdiction, even a particular judge. If you want Social Security disability insurance cases for the Southern District of New York its easy to do - just click on the categories to limit your search.

2. Find a recent case (the Justia database only goes back a few years) you think applies to your case. Determine the case name or docket number and then search to find the filings in that case.
You will have to be a little inventive. There is no full text searching for these filings using either PACER or Yet.

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