Locating Court Records, Briefs and Oral Arguments

Introduction

This guide will point you to some of the sources for finding court records, including the parties’ briefs, motions and other filings. Records for the United States Supreme Court are readily available in various formats. While the records and briefs for U.S. Courts of Appeals and state appellate courts are not as widely available, researchers still have many options for finding relevant documents. If the sources below do not have the information that you need, please consult:

Guide Last Updated:  December 2016

 

Supreme Court Briefs

Briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court are available in print, microfiche/film, on commercial online legal research services, and on the Internet. The Law Library is also a depository for print briefs; however, the collection is not complete.  It does not contain all briefs for all cases, such as memorandum cases or cases denying certiorari.  The U.S. Supreme Court Library has the most complete collection of Supreme Court briefs and the Clerk’s Office maintains complete sets of records and briefs for the current term.  Contact the reference desk for more information.



For more recent cases, the Supreme Court’s website is an excellent place to start, as it provides information on cases pending on the docket, schedules of oral arguments, slip opinions from the Court, and other relevant information.    You may also wish to consult US Law Week, which publishes a record of the Supreme Court proceedings and other developments, and the SCOTUS blog, which tracks the activities of the Court in both editorial and statistical reports.  For older cases, the U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs database from the Making of Modern Law is a great resource, albeit selective in its coverage.  


The original complaint is often, by not always, filed as part of the appendix that is filed with the Supreme Court.  Traditionally, this is not included in microfiche sets as it tends to be very long.  We suggest consulting the online services first to find the appendix.

Electronic Sources:
The Making Of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs.   Location: Law Library databases (network restricted).  Selective coverage from 1832 – 1978. 

LexisNexis: U.S. Supreme Court Briefs 1979 – date

Findlaw:  Supreme Court Briefs 1999 – date.  (free)

Westlaw’s Briefs Multibase: has selected briefs from the U.S. Supreme Court.  PDF images may be available for selected documents in this database. A PDF Image may include additional appendix materials. PDF briefs with appendices will be noted by the link “Original Image of this Document with Appendix”.

Bloomberg:  Full-text docket searches.  Contact Jed Lewin for a password.

Briefs of the Office of the Solicitor General.  Merits briefs (1982 – 1985);  Merit briefs and responses (1986 – 1990); Merit briefs an responses (1993 – 1996); all filings except In Forma Pauperis responses (July 1998 - date)

Print:
Landmark Briefs and Arguments of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Location: (L5) KF101.8 .K87.  Select briefs published roughly two years following the decision.  1793 – date.

Supreme Court of the United States Records and Briefs.  Location: UES Top Shelves.  From 1925 – 1980.

Supreme Court of the United States Records and Briefs.  Past three years of briefs filed on UES top shelves, shelved by docket number.  Prior to that, briefs are located at LSF – call number: BRIEFS and the docket number.  (Contact a Reference Librarian for more assistance).  Coverage from 2000 – date.

Microfiche and Film:
United States Supreme Court Records and Briefs.  Location: Library Shelving Facility, place “request” to have film delivered to the circulation desk or Contact a Reference Librarian for assistance.   Briefs from 1832 – 1886.


Supreme Court of the United States Records and Briefs.  Location: UES.  Use the fiche guide for cabinet information.   Film arranged by U.S. Reports citation until 1972, since 1973 it is arranged by docket number.  Briefs from 1897 – date.


Supreme Court Oral Arguments

For more recent cases, the Supreme Court’s website is an excellent place to start, as it provides information on cases pending on the docket, schedules of oral arguments, slip opinions from the Court, and other relevant information.    You may also wish to consult US Law Week, which publishes a record of the Supreme Court proceedings and other developments, and the SCOTUS blog, which tracks the activities of the Court in both editorial and statistical reports.

Electronic Sources:
LexisNexis: United States Supreme Court Transcripts (Oct. 1979 – date) 

Westlaw: United States Supreme Court Oral Arguments (Oct. 1990 – date)

Oyez -  RealAudio recordings and MP3 files for selected cases.

United States Supreme Court – oral argument transcripts for cases argued from the October Term 2000 to the present.

Print:
Landmark Briefs and Arguments of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Location: (L5) KF101.8 .K87.  Select transcripts or summaries of oral arguments published roughly two years following the decision. (1793 – date)

Microfiche and Film:
Oral Arguments, United States Supreme Court.  Location: UES.  Use the fiche guide for cabinet information.  (1952 – date)

 

Federal Court Records and Briefs

Coverage in online databases generally exists from the late 1990’s forward.  If you need cases prior to that time, the best option is to contact the Court’s clerk’s office and ask for assistance.  Use one of our Judicial Staff Directories for more information. 

PACER:  This is the official case location system for the federal government, but searches are somewhat limited (not full text).  PACER requires you register for an individual login. For more information, please see the information under PACER on the Library Database Passwords (YLS NetID required) page of the YLS Inside site.

  • The case locator allows you to search multiple courts at the same time. 
  • If you have a specific court you’d like to search you can log into the individual court PACER site.
  • If a document number is hyperlinked you can download it.
  • Note: every Federal Court maintains their own PACER site which is why you have to search them individually. But your password will work across all sites.

WestlawWestlaw has integrated their Dockets product into both WestlawNext. This includes full coverage of Federal Court dockets (same data from PACER) and state court coverage.

  • Dockets on WestlawNext are easy to find and use.
  • While some documents and filings are available, some will tell you that Access is Denied. You can also check the “Filings” tab when you find a docket to see if any of the case documents are available.

LexisNexis:  Lexis Advance includes dockets searching. Select “Dockets” from the “Content Type” menu on the home screen.  

  • Some court filings are available on Lexis.  To search filings select “Briefs, Pleadings, and Motions” from the “Content Type” menu on the  home screen.  
Bloomberg - Bloomberg has incorporated dockets into their new legal research system and allows for full-text searching. This includes full coverage of Federal Court dockets (same data from PACER) and state court coverage.  Contact Eric Malinowski for a password.

  • Simply select “Dockets” from the top menu when log in to search their dockets.  
  • Links that are blue indicate a document is available to download. Green links mean a document is not available.

Transcripts:


Transcripts are usually not available to the public.  If the case has been appealed by one of the litigants, they will sometimes request a transcript from the court reporter, which may then appear in the docket.  To determine whether a transcript is available, the best option is to contact the clerk’s office and ask for assistance.  Use one of our Judicial Staff Directories for more information.

2nd Circuit Specific Information

Other sources

State Court Records and Briefs

State courts vary widely on trial court access and information. Some states call their trial courts district courts, supreme courts, superior courts, or even have multiple levels of trial courts. Some states have docket information available for free online (see below).

WestlawWestlaw has integrated their Dockets product into both Westlaw Classic and WestlawNext.  State coverage varies in both states and counties covered, and which case types are included (civil & criminal).  You can check Westlaw Dockets coverage using this reference guide.

  • Dockets on WestlawNext are easy to find and use.
  • Some documents and filings are available on Westlaw.  However, some will tell you that Access is Denied. You can also check the “Filings” tab when you find a docket to see if any of the case documents are available.

LexisNexis:  Lexis Advance includes dockets searching. Select “Dockets” from the ” Content Type” menu on the home screen.  This integrates the data from CourtLink into one search platform.

  • Lexis also offers access to court filings.  To search filings select “Briefs, Pleadings, and Motions” from the “Content Type” menu on the  home screen. 
Bloomberg - Bloomberg has incorporated dockets into their new legal research system and allows for full-text searching. State coverage varies in both states and counties covered, and which case types are included (civil & criminal).  Contact Eric Malinowski for a password.

  • Simply select “Dockets” from the top menu when log in to search their dockets.  
  • Links that are blue indicate a document is available to download. Green links mean a document is not available.

Transcripts

Transcripts are usually not available to the public.  If the case has been appealed by one of the litigants, they will sometimes request a transcript from the court reporter, which may then appear in the docket.  To determine whether a transcript is available, the best option is to contact the clerk’s office and ask for assistance.  Use one of our Judicial Staff Directories for more information.

Connecticut Specific Information

Supreme Court of Connecticut:

  • Print Briefs (1874 - 1986):   Location: UES Top Shelves, call number KFC3645.9 .C66
  • Microfiche Briefs (1986 – date)  Use the fiche guide for cabinet information.
  • Court Website

Appellate Court of Connecticut:

  • Microfiche Briefs (1975 – date).  Use the fiche guide for cabinet information.
  • Electronic Sources: 2002 – date:   Westlaw  Select coverage.
  • Court Website

Other State Courts:

Florida: Florida State University has a Supreme Court Records & Briefs, with the goal of collecting briefs dating from 1846. The projected date for completion of the Project is 2012.  This site contains opinions issued in Florida Supreme Court cases decided since August 1984 and the briefs filed in those cases. Briefs for cases decided without an opinion are not included. 

Idaho: This search page allows you to look up a case and see if a library in Idaho has a copy of it.

Kentucky: Northern Kentucky University’s online archive contains briefs submitted to the Kentucky Supreme Court in cases decided since January 1999 and Kentucky Court of Appeals in cases decided since October 2005.

Massachusetts: Since September 2007, briefs filed in most cases scheduled to be argued before the Supreme Judicial Court will be available on this website shortly before the sitting.  Webcasts of oral arguments are available in real time and archived at the Suffolk University Law School

Michigan: The Michigan Court’s website contains briefs from the April 2002 through the present with synopses of case, click on the hyperlinked docket numbers to view briefs in Acrobat.

Minnesota: Beginning with 2005 (cases reported in 705 N.W. 2d) full text PDF copies of select civil case briefs.

Mississippi: Mississippi College School of Law has video archive coverage from 2004 - present and brief archive coverage from late 2007 - current (most).

Missouri: Briefs since 1998 are located with the docket sheet for the court, filed according to when the case was scheduled to be argued before the court.

Montana: Court documents filed after October 2007 will be available for viewing on this site, but in cases where documents were filed prior to October 2007, only the docket entry description will be available.The State Law Library scans and publishes on its website all Montana Supreme Court opinions and the briefs that are submitted by the parties for those cases. Currently, you can access cases dating back to the 1980s. In addition, the law library publishes online selected Supreme Court orders.  You can search all of these Supreme Court documents by entering keywords docket number, party names, topic, etc.) in the searchbox located here

New York: Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division: Second Judicial Department

Briefs are available for appeals calendared between January 2004 and approximately 6 months prior to the present date.

North Carolina: Contains Briefs from 1999 forward. From the main page, under the link for Library click on Browse.

North Dakota: Contains briefs from 1999 forward, search the docket here.

Ohio: Most documents that were filed in Supreme Court cases after December 1, 2006, are scanned.

Oregon Supreme Court and Appellate Court Briefs:  This collection contains unofficial copies of Oregon Supreme Court (SC) and Court of Appeals (COA) Briefs and Opinions. Briefs coverage begins approximately May 2007, continuing to the present.  (COA Briefs start with 212 Or. App 488; SC Briefs start with 342 O.R. 1) The long-term goal is to include Briefs back to the mid 1980’s. Opinions coverage is 1998 to present.

Texas:  Contains briefs dating back to 1999, although only a limited number of briefs are available from 1999 and 2000.

Virginia: The University of Richmond’s Muse Law Library Case reporters and records and briefs sets are available for use in the Muse Law Library. The Library does not lend either case reporters or records and briefs sets. Limited photocopying (generally limited to 20 pages or less) may be requested for a fee. Requests may be submitted by e-mail.  In 2006, Virginia Supreme Court briefs became available through HeinOnline, but Yale Law does not subscribe to this collection. 

Washington: Website contains an index of cases filed in the municipal, district, superior, and appellate courts of the state of Washington. This index can point you to the official or complete court record. 

West Virginia: Supreme Court of Appeals briefs are available from January 2005 to the present.

Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin archives briefs online from November 1992 forward.

Wyoming: Coverage begins in 2008, look up the case by docket number in the case management system.

Updated Date: 
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Knowledge Base: