Most of the time, basic information about court cases such as court dates are not only public information but easy to obtain. United States courts consist of state and federal levels that branch out into many other categories such as circuit, district, superior, probate and juvenile. In certain court cases, sealed records require formal requests to open them. You can conduct a case search either in person, on the court's website (if available) or by phone. Fees apply in certain cases.
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- Moderately Easy
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Search public records for local and state courts. You can search online, or by calling the court, or by visiting the courthouse in person. Court dates and other basic information is often available online, and you can search the court calendars by using the first and last name of the person. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) provides judicial links for each state and levels of courts in each state. Many phone books also have government "blue pages" that list federal, state and local court addresses and phone numbers with automated data.
If you can't find the information online, and must talk to a court clerk in person or on the phone, ask him for the proper procedure for searching court records by a person's name. Courts typically refer to those scheduled to appear in court as defendants and plaintiffs. If you go to the courthouse, the clerk must show you any public case information or allow you to access their public computers, if provided, for most case searches. If you can't find information on the local level, the next step is federal court.
Register an account with the Public Access to Court Electronic Records website to search for federal, appellate, district and bankruptcy cases. PACER offers online access to many public case files and provides 24 hour service, including weekends. Fee waivers apply for charges that do not exceed £6 for a quarterly billing cycle. Waiver exceptions apply for name searches, transcripts of federal court proceedings and non-case specific reports.
Call the PACER Service Center at 800-676-6856 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. CST with questions about their service. You can also access the PACER free automated "Voice Case Information System" or "Appellate Voice Information System" with a touch-tone phone. This service has limited court case information and offers you an automated number to reach a clerk.
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