Access to Court Documents in Federal Cases
Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an internet site that allows anyone to obtain case information and court pleadings from federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts. To use PACER, you need to register for an account. Anyone can have a PACER account. You do not need to be a lawyer to use PACER. There is no cost to register, but access to web based PACER systems will generate a $.08 per page charge. You are not charged per minute of use. The charge applies whether or not pages are printed, viewed, or downloaded. The cost to access a single document is capped at $2.40, about 30 pages.
If you accrue a total of less than $10 worth of charges in any given quarter, fees are waived for that quarter and your balance will be reset to $0 for the next quarter. If you exceed $10 worth of charges, you will be billed on a quarterly basis for your transactions.
The site can be very useful for scholars who want to see the actual briefs and orders in a particular case.
For example, if you are interested in the Texas ultrasound case Richard M. posted on, you can go to the PACER site for the federal district court in the Western District of Texas and enter case no. 11-486. PACER will then give you a choice of cases. The ultrasound case is “Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey.” After you click on that link, a window will open offering you several documents to review including the Plaintiffs’ Petition and the state’s answer.