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ANSWERED on Sun 24 Jun 2007 - 7:44 pm UTC by David Sarokin

Question: How to look up lawsuits online

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 24 Jun 2007 19:12 UTCSun 24 Jun 2007 - 7:12 pm UTC 

Besides subscription services like Lexis Nexis, are there websites were one can look up pleadings for federal lawsuits (e.g., Federal court in Salma, AL) and obtain the lawsuit's citation?


David Sarokin 


 24 Jun 2007 19:44 UTCSun 24 Jun 2007 - 7:44 pm UTC 


You *may* be able to look up information online, and you may not.  It depends a great deal on what you already know about the case (e.g. the names of the parties to the suit), the particular court in which it's filed, what information you're after, and how far along in the process is the particular case in question.

Bottom line is that some courts make some cases available online.  Not all courts do, and even for those that do, not all cases are available.  So you'll need to go fishing.

For starters, head here:

U.S. Courts

where you can search on any City/State combination to locate the relevant federal courts. 

For instance, for Selma, AL, there are seven records returned, and most of these lead to their own website.

The website for the Alabama Southern District Court, for instance, is here:


where you can see two links of interest. 

One is for 'Opinions' -- click on this, and you'll get to the text of numerous (usually high profile) cases that have already been decided by the court.

The other link to note is the one that says 'CM/ECF'.  This is the link to the electronic docket system of the court.  You need to register in advance in order to use it, and trust me...it is not easy to use, as it's designed chiefly for legal professionals.  There are also small fees for downloading actual records from the court (just a few pennies per page).

Once you're registered for the CM/ECF system, you'll be able to access it for any federal court that uses the same system.

This probably isn't quite the clear-cut answer you would have liked, but getting court records online is a real hit or miss endeavor.  Even Lexis doesn't have access to the vast majority of court cases filed in the US.

Let me know if there's anything more I can do for you on this.






 24 Jun 2007 20:55 UTCSun 24 Jun 2007 - 8:55 pm UTC 

Thanks!  This helps a great deal.




 28 Jun 2007 16:25 UTCThu 28 Jun 2007 - 4:25 pm UTC 

You might also be able to get full Lexis/Nexis access.

For example, in NYS Supreme Court, in their Manhattan law library, there are four computers with full access to Lexis/Nexis for free for anyone visiting. The full range of federal/ any-all state and various cite services, and you can email yourself any result, which shows up as a PDF (excellent!).




 11 Feb 2009 02:58 UTCWed 11 Feb 2009 - 2:58 am UTC 


Hello!  I don't need a clarification - just wanted to say Congratulations on the Washington Post magazine article!  I was so happy to read it on Sunday. Do remember I'll sign up for any research class you give!

Best,  K


David Sarokin 


 11 Feb 2009 03:08 UTCWed 11 Feb 2009 - 3:08 am UTC 

Awwww....thanks so much.  It was a lot of fun. 

And now that the cat's out of the bag, I can't really resist:



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