Your lawyer, who likely is familiar with local court practice, is your best resource. Generally, all documents filed with a court are public records and are available through the clerk's office. By way of exception, some documents are sealed by special court order, and some documents are confidential by operation of law, such as grand jury materials and criminal files relating to juveniles.
As the keeper of court records, the clerk's office responds to most inquiries on the status of a case once given the specific case name or docket number. In many courts, inquiries for information and requests to examine dockets, case files, exhibits, and other records are made at the intake area in the clerk's office. Inquiries often are made by phone. There is a $26 fee for every search of the records conducted by the clerk's office. A fee of $ .50 per page is assessed for reproducing any record or paper record or $ .10 per page, for printing copies of any records or document accessed electronically at the public access terminal in the courthouse.
Almost all federal courts have automated systems that allow for the search and retrieval of case-related information through personal computers at the public counters and through an internet service called PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). Electronic access to case-related information is available free of charge at the public counter in the clerk's office of most courts. The PACER service, which provides remote access to case-related information for registered users, currently assesses a fee of $.08 per page.
In many bankruptcy and appellate courts there also are telephone information systems, which enable callers to obtain basic case information through the use of a touch tone phone. These systems are provided free of charge, are available 24 hours a day, and have a toll free number for long distance service.
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