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Cost-Effective Legal Research: Free Sources for Court Files & Dockets


A docket is a record of all the proceedings and filings in a case. In addition to providing helpful case information, a docket can be a useful first step to locate the court documents filed in a case.

Historically, court dockets and documents were mainly obtained by visiting the clerk of the court in person, and getting copies of records often involved fees. Since the adoption of electronic case management systems by courts, many dockets and court documents are now available electronically. The electronic availability of dockets and court documents varies by court and date.

Generally, federal records are more readily available online than state records, and appellate records are more readily available online than trial records. It is important to note though that even for records available electronically, accessing them may still involve fees.

With that in mind, these resources are a good starting point, as they will direct you to records that are available electronically for free or at a low cost. 

Federal Court

State Court

State court websites may also give you access to recent dockets although the types of cases, years of coverage and depth of information included varies widely from one jurisdiction to the next. To find court websites for other states, use these directories:


Neighboring County Courts

Reference Appointments

The Taggart Law Library is here to help! Schedule an appointment with a librarian or chat with us using our online chat feature. Open to ONU Law students, faculty, staff, and alumni. 

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