Records and briefs from the Federal Court system are generally accessible online for cases filed since 2000. Records and briefs for cases filed before that time have been selectively digitized and are sometimes only available in print or microform from the courts themselves or from the National Archives.
The Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system is the official Federal portal for online access to court dockets, records, and briefs for U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, U.S. District Courts, and U.S. Bankruptcy Courts. Electronic docket information, records, and briefs are generally available for cases from 2000 to present.
If you are a law student and need to use PACER as a part of your research for a journal or class, or for a faculty-approved project, please visit the reference desk. Because there is a cost associated with PACER use, the library will only run PACER searches for limited academically approved searches for law students and faculty. In most cases, it is quicker and easier to use one of the commercial databases (listed below) that make available all PACER content to subscribers.
Because UNC Law users already have access to records and briefs through Bloomberg Law, Westlaw, and LexisNexis, we encourage those users to access federal court dockets through those databases. Bloomberg Law maintains access to the full set of materials on PACER, and Westlaw and LexisNexis provide access to select materials. They also have enhanced search features and do not require separate billing. Additionally, Westlaw provides selective coverage of some U.S. Courts of Appeals briefs dating back to 1972. See the Compiled Records and Briefs Online page of this research guide for more information.
For finding older federal court records and briefs, see the Union List of Appellate Court Records and Briefs: Federal and State (available online to UNC users, in print in the law library at KF105.9 .W49 1998, 2nd Floor) which lists libraries and archives that hold print and microfilm copies of records and briefs.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
In addition to electronic access for recent cases, discussed above, the Law Library has copies of records and briefs for many cases heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. This court hears cases on appeal from U.S. district courts in North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia. Earlier case records and briefs are indexed by docket number rather than case citation.
1892-1987: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Briefs and Records (KF 112.9 4th .A3, 1st floor)
1986-2008: U.S.Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Records and Briefs (Microform: KF112.9 .A3 1st floor)