How to Access Court Records

court records
Learn how to find U.S. court records online and at the courthouse.

What are Court Records?

A court record is a general term that is used to describe legal records that are filed with the court system. This may include records filed with the county, state, and federal court. Examples include records such as:

Federal courts create and maintain a case file that contains a docket sheet and all of the documents filed in a case. To access federal court records, see the link to PACER below.

How to Find Court Records and Documents Online

Following are the recommended tools and resources for researching U.S. court files:

PACER – Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts, and the PACER Case Locator via the Internet. PACER is provided by the federal Judiciary in keeping with its commitment to providing public access to public information via a centralized service. PACER hosts millions of case file documents and docket information for all district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts. These are available immediately after they have been electronically filed. If you are unable to locate the information you are seeking, please contact the local court or the PACER Service Center at (800) 676-6856 between the hours of 8 AM and 6 PM CT Monday through Friday or by email at

Supreme Court Home Page – The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and the number of Associate Justices as may be fixed by Congress. The number of Associate Justices is currently fixed at eight. The power to nominate the Justices is vested in the President of the United States and appointments are made with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Article III, §1, of the Constitution, further provides that ” the Judges, both of the supreme and inferior levels, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”

United States Courts – Provides information from and about the Judicial Branch of the U.S. Government.  Includes federal rules and policies, information on accessing public records, statistics, legal forms and fees, and educational resources.

Online Public Records Search Providers

Following is a short list of public records providers who allow access to court records online. Some records aren’t available for online access, but these providers offer a “court runner” service. Via the court runner service, a person will visit the court in person and retrieve the records on your behalf.

Searching for someone? Run an online People Search through BeenVerfied and search billions of records in just a few seconds. Find addresses, phone numbers, criminal records, and more.

Intelius – Intelius provides a service to retrieve criminal and civil court records. As part of this service, a qualified research professional will personally visit the courthouse and conduct an on-site search for the records you need. The service is just $49.95 per search. Learn more about the Intelius Court Records Search. Court Record Searches and Instant Background Check reports. Run a background check and find a variety of legal documents. Includes documents such as criminal background checks, property value, lawsuits, judgments, bankruptcy, and liens.

What do Private Investigators Need to Know?

Private investigators often conduct court record searches, both online and offline (by physically visiting the courthouse). Many records are considered to be public documents, but average citizens don’t usually know the process for retrieving them. Private investigators know where to look to find the legal documents you need. If you don’t have the time or the know-how, consider hiring a private eye to do the legwork for you. It could save you a substantial amount of time and headaches in the long run.


If you have any questions about how to retrieve court records and other legal documents, please leave a message below. Also, learn more about background investigations.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


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