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Court Records and Briefs in the Law Library

Research Guide about finding court records and briefs in the law library.

Compiled Records and Briefs Online

Several commercial databases now compile electronic copies of court records and briefs from the Federal courts and from the growing number of state courts that make their records available online. If you have access to these databases, they can be a good place to start your search. The three listed below can be searched by docket information (docket number, names of parties, etc.) or by full-text search of the docket contents. UNC Law-affiliated researchers have access to the following databases:

Bloomberg Law provides docket information and full-text access to electronic records and briefs from 2000 forward for almost all Federal courts (with much more selective coverage before 2000). Bloomberg also includes selective state court coverage, mostly limited to recent cases, with the earliest beginning around 2000 (navigate to "Litigation and Dockets > Docket Coverage" for the full list and coverage information). In general, trial court dockets are available, but full-text access to records and briefs is often limited to appellate-level proceedings.

Westlaw provides similar coverage for Federal courts. Westlaw also includes some selective coverage of state court records and briefs, generally limited to recent cases, with the earliest beginning around 2000. In general, trial court dockets are available, but full-text access to records and briefs is often limited to appellate-level proceedings. See this Westlaw guide (pdf) for searching Federal and state records and briefs on Westlaw.

LexisNexis provides similar coverage for Federal courts. Coverage for state courts varies; generally, full-text access to records and briefs is available for appellate proceedings, but trial court coverage is more limited. On LexisNexis, navigate to "Browse>By Category> Briefs, Pleadings, and Filings" and select your jurisdiction. Note that dockets are available separately from records and briefs. To find dockets, navigate to "Browse>By Category>Dockets"

Individual State Record & Brief Archives

In addition to the compilations of records and briefs in the commercial databases listed above, a number of libraries, archives, and digital library initiatives have begun digitizing older records and briefs of certain state courts. These include: 

  • Arizona -- Through the Arizona Memory Project, provides access to Arizona appellate court briefs from the second half of the 20th Century. 
  • California -- Through LLMC Digital, available for all appellate courts, 2009 to date, and scattered digitization going back as far as the 19th Century (subscription access through UNC Law)
  • Florida -- Through the Florida State College of Law, covers Florida Supreme Court Records and Briefs from 1984 to present. The project will eventually include records and briefs dating to 1846. 
  • New York -- Through LLMC Digital, available for the NY Court of Appeals from 1847 to 1959 along with some scattered digitized records and briefs for more recent cases (subscription access through UNC Law). 

‚ÄčThe Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale University maintains a list of more recent (mostly post-2000) state court records and briefs, which are typically made available through their respective state court websites. This 2009 LLRX article is also a useful guide, though some links may be out of date. For finding older state records and briefs in print in other libraries, consult A Union List of Appellate Court Records and Briefs: Federal and State (available online to UNC users through Hein Online, or in print at KF105.9 .W49 1998 2nd Floor).