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Case Law Research: Records and Briefs

This guide provides information on Case Law Research, and identifies pertinent print and online resources available through the NYU Law Library

Introduction

Records and briefs are the papers submitted to or generated by a court in a particular case, including complaints, motion papers, and court orders. Although court filings are technically public records, their availability varies widely by jurisdiction. Several commercial databases now provide electronic access to these materials, though they are not always complete, and are more readily available for federal materials. Older materials may not be available online.

Most of these materials are found through the docket sheet. The docket for the case is the formal record, maintained by the court, which lists all of the proceedings and filings in a particular case - usually in reverse chronological order. Each filing in a case is given a docket number. The docket sheet allows a researcher to find the document they are looking for, and the date it was filed.

Supreme Court Records and Briefs

U.S. Supreme Court records and briefs have become more widely available, in both electronic and print form, some dating back to the Court's earliest sessions in 1792. Not all material may be available, and it may require checking more than one source.

Federal Court Records and Briefs

NYU Law students and faculty have access to Federal Court records and briefs through Bloomberg Law, Westlaw, and Lexis Advance. Bloomberg Law maintains access to the full set of materials on PACER, and provides free federal docket searching, document delivery and updating under its “Litigation & Dockets” section. Generally, all documents which are available in the paid version of PACER are also available through Bloomberg Law. Westlaw and LexisNexis provide access to select materials.

State Court Records and Briefs

State courts vary widely on trial court access and information. See the links below for access to information on state court dockets.