An Introduction to Judicial Dockets, Oral Argument, and Court Records and Briefs 2 13 2020
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An Introduction to Judicial Dockets, Oral Argument, and Court Records and Briefs 2 13 2020

morning my name is Kim Mattioli and I am
the student services librarian at the Jerome Hall Law Library at the Indiana
University Maurer School of Law and I’m just here to give you a brief
introduction thank you for attending today’s webinar which is sponsored by
indigo and the Indiana State Library so indigo the Indiana networking for
documents and information of government organizations is a special interest
group for government information professionals who are dedicated to
issues concerning government documents and access to federal and state
information we are happy to present this two-part webinar series entitled
researching the law finding cases and judicial documents so last week I
presented part 1 an introduction to court structure and finding case law and
today Jennifer Morgan will present part 2 an introduction to judicial dockets
oral argument and court records and briefs Jennifer is the government
documents librarian here at the Jerome Hall law library at the Indiana
University Maurer School of Law and now I’m going to turn it over to Jennifer
and we have to switch headphones so bear with us for a second hi everybody this
is Jennifer and today I will start with an overview of court dockets records and
pleadings we’ll talk about researching Court dockets online and the different
sources that you can use for federal dockets and then we’ll talk about other
sources that you can use to find oral arguments and court briefs so let’s
start by looking at what a court docket is a court docket is a record of all
documents filed by the court parties or any other entity in a court proceeding
the docket will include all filings such as pleadings briefs declarations
exhibits orders judgments and sometimes court notations such as the payment of
fees or continuances of dates in a civil matter the docket will usually begin
with the filing of a summons and complaint while in a criminal matter the
docket begins with an indictment docket research is generally used to
find information about a particular case dockets contain information about the
judge hearing the case the parties involved attorneys involved the facts
and events of a case and more dockets are generally useful for researching
trial level cases some trials may last many years and involve many events and
there will be no written opinion dockets are important for locating information
about these cases examples of documents that can be identified and sometimes
located by retrieving a trial court docket include pleadings motions
testimony transcripts jury instructions and worksheets judge rulings expert
witness names and more appellate court dockets are also important appellate
dockets may include important dates information about briefs filed in a case
case numbers parties and attorneys involved when most people think of court
cases they picture lawyers arguing in front of a judge and jury but in reality
the majority of time spent in most court cases consists of formal writing and
responses this formal writing breaks down into two categories of documents
pleadings and motions a pleading demands that the other party do something while
a motion requests that the judge in the case do something these documents can be
submitted to the court before during or after the trial though pleadings are
typically filed at or near a cases beginning pleadings are formal documents
that state the parties basic positions and inc.. and include complaints
memoranda of points and authorities answers replies and motions these
documents are useful for legal researchers because they can provide
additional insight into the arguments presented to the court arguments which
either persuaded or failed to persuade the court the pleadings will often
include the facts of the case the legal issues presented in the case and the
legal arguments that support or refute those issues the
complaint is probably the most important pleading in a civil case since it frames
the issues of the case by setting out the plaintiffs version of the facts and
specifying the damages the complaint includes various counts that is distinct
statements of the plaintiffs cause of action highlighting the factual and
legal basis of the suit a Memorandum of points and authorities is a document
that cites legal authorities such as statutes and court cases and explains
how those authorities support the position advocated by the party who
wrote the memorandum this type of memorandum is often written to support a
motion an answer is a statement by the defendant that usually explains why the
plaintiff should not prevail it may also offer additional facts or plead an
excuse any party in the case may have to file a reply which is an answer to new
allegations raised in pleadings motions are not pleadings but are requests for
the judge to make a legal ruling some of the most common pretrial motions include
a motion to discover by which one party seeks to gain information from the
adverse party a motion to dismiss which asks the court to dismiss the suit
because the suit doesn’t have a legally sound basis even if all the facts
alleged are proven true and a motion for summary judgment which is sometimes
called a motion for summary disposition this motion asks the court for a
judgment on the merits of the case before the trial it is properly made
when there is no dispute about the facts and only a question of law needs to be
decided court briefs and oral arguments are part of the court record also and
are often of interest to researchers legal researchers often find it helpful
to read briefs submitted by the parties in cases before appellate courts before
presenting their oral arguments counsel for both sides will submit a legal brief
which is a written document that summarizes the facts of the
case as well as the legal reasoning behind their arguments oral arguments
are the advocates oral presentations and questions by the judges or justices so
think of oral argument as a high-powered conversation between the justices and
the attorneys the attorneys have an opportunity an opportunity to add to the
arguments contained in their briefs and clear up any misconceptions or questions
raised by their briefs there are different types of briefs which we’ll
look at now the certiorari stage briefs are the efforts by parties to tell the
court why it should or should not take a case once the Supreme Court has granted
certiorari in a case each party has the opportunity to file merits briefs to
tell the court why it thinks it deserves to win once the Supreme Court has
granted certiorari each party will file their merit briefs
unlike the certiorari stage briefs which tell the court why it should or should
not take the case the merits briefs tell the court why each party thinks it
deserves to win then you have amicus curiae briefs or friend-of-the-court
briefs this is a brief filed by a person group or entity that is not a party to
the case but nonetheless wishes to provide the court with its perspective
on the issues before it the person or entity is called an amicus and the
plural is amici although although court filings are considered to be public
records their availability varies widely by jurisdiction but the growth of
electronic filing has improved online access to recent materials however
historical records and briefs might be more difficult to obtain without
contacting the office of the court clerk and this might require substantial
copying fees one exception is the US Supreme Court historical records and
briefs of the US Supreme Court are available through two subscription
databases and we’ll talk about those later now let’s look at a docket sheet
once an action has commenced in a court case the course the court maintains a
docket sheet which is a chronological list
noting the date and description of each document filed in the action think of a
docket sheet as a table of contents of the materials filed in the court case
the docket sheet outlines the chronological lifespan of that case and
it lists the parties participating attorneys nature of suit code and all
filings and events such as complaints pleadings briefs letters hearing
schedules and transcripts let’s take a look a closer look at this docket sheet
if I can get the mouse to work zoom in and look at this case so here on this
docket sheet we have the court it’s the US District Court California Northern
District and we have the case name Swift V central Marin Police Authority
and others the judge that the case was assigned to is listed here and then you
have the dates that the case was filed and terminated over on the right this
means that the plaintiff demanded a jury trial and here’s the nature of suit code
it’s a civil rights case when filing a civil case in a federal district court
attorneys must identify one and only one of ninety issue area nature of suit
codes that best describes their case and they fill that out on the cover sheet
for their complaint and we might take a look at one of those later
so dockets also include detailed information about parties and their
attorneys and this can be an important finding an important tool for finding
out which lawyers or law firms are representing clients in cases so if we
scroll down further the the docket sheet now will see the details that lists the
date of the events in the case details of arguments or document submissions as
well as some information about the event and I’ll zoom in so you can see that
closer so you can see here the complaint was filed on February 22nd 2017
also notice that individual documents are assigned a
sequential docket item number which is noted in this column on the left side of
the docket sheet you’ll also see information such as the filing date of
the document the date of entry that is the date that the clerk and of the entry
into the docket sheet and sometimes you’ll get information about the party
or entity filing that event since electronic filing has become the norm in
federal courts many documents are available online in PDF format so if the
underlying filing is publicly available you can click on the hyperlink under the
item number and then you can download print or view the document so you’ll see
that some of these documents are hyperlinked which means they’re
accessible to you one good thing to know is that dockets are kept throughout the
lifetime of a pending action and after the final disposition of the case
however not all docket information is available online because some records
may be sealed or even destroyed let’s look at a docket number now the term
docket number is generally used synonymously with the term case number
courts assigned each newly filed case a docket number to make it easier to track
and understanding how docket numbers are constructed can be helpful for
correcting mistyped docket numbers and determining where and when a case was
filed so each court generally has its own
system for assigning docket numbers which may include some or all of the
following the year the case was filed in a two or four digit format the court the
case was filed in represented by a letter or a number the case type code
common case types include CV for civil CR for criminal or BR for bankruptcy
then you’ll see a reference number usually assigned sequentially to each
case as its filed and then some district courts add judges initials or other
identifying information at the end of the number so when you’re searching for
a docket you can skip any of those letters or numbers
after the sequential case number because they’re not officially part of the
docket number they’re just simply local notes if you need to find out how
specific court assigns docket numbers then you would go to that courts website
and look for information on how they do that so here we have our case and you
can see the two different docket numbers here is the docket number for the court
of appeals case and then further down here’s the docket number for the
district court and you can see that in the appellate court case the first
number before the – is the year the case was filed and then just simply this
individual sequentially assigned case number and then the district court
docket numbers are a little more complicated you have a code for the
court or the office where the case was filed then here’s the year which is 17
this is a civil case so you have a CV and then here’s that sequential
individual case number and then the judges initials so before attempting to
locate pleadings and records from a specific case you should first identify
as much information about the case as possible you want to see if you can find
the full names of the parties the docket or case numbers of the original case as
well as docket numbers for any appeals you want to find out the location of the
court in which the case was filed as well as the courts of any appeals the
date either exact or approximate of the case and its appeals and then the names
of judges or attorneys involved in the case you can find all of this case
information in the published decision you may find it in Law Review articles
legal treatises newspapers or even on the internet on advocacy websites so our
first online docket that we’ll look at will be at the Supreme Court’s website
the US Supreme Court and they provide as you saw from Kim’s webinar last week
they provide the full text of opinions they also provide docket
sheets and filings oral argument transcripts and audio files and briefs
for cases decided 2017 and later the Supreme Court’s docket system contains
information about cases both pending and decided that have been filed at the
court since the beginning of the 2001 term and then in 2017 something really
awesome happened the US Supreme Court set up its own electronic filing system
they hadn’t done that before they were never a part of pacer so now they have
an electronic filing system and they’ve made almost all of their records
available online at no cost so let’s go I’m going to flip over to the handout I
made a resource guide which is available to you in PDF and everything that we’re
going to look at is annotated and linked here so here’s the link for the Supreme
Court and we’ll go to the website and you can search for dockets two ways you
can click on this link up here in the upper right hand corner that says docket
search or if you come over here under case documents you can click on docket
search there and it just takes you to this same page you can search for the
docket in a particular case by using a Supreme Court docket number a case name
or any other words or numbers included on a docket report and the format you
can see here for a Supreme Court docket number is term year – number there’s an
example so I could type in the case name or I could type in the docket number
I’ll just type in the docket number for this case which was in the news recently
because it arose from the Indiana Supreme Court this is Tyson Tim’s V
Indiana so just click on this link here and it will take you to the docket sheet
I’ll just zoom in a little bit and you can see the title of the case Tyson
Tim’s the Indiana the date that it was docketed the court that it came from the
Supreme Court of Indiana the date the case was decided and then you have the
chronological listing of the life of the case and the first link here is the petition
for certiorari and remember as Kim described this last week it’s a request
that the Supreme Court hear the case so here’s the petition for cert and a PDF
I’ll close that and then you’ll see other types of pleadings and filings and
briefs so here we have an amicus brief so if you click on that it takes you
right to the brief and etc etc and if you go to the end you will find the
opinion of the court so this US Supreme Court overturned the decision of the
Indiana Supreme Court in its decision and Justice Ginsburg delivered the
opinion of the court and then below that you’ll see the attorneys for the
petitioners and the attorneys the attorney from the state of Indiana is the
Solicitor General Thomas Fischer so that’s a docket sheet with linked
underlying filings for the US Supreme Court we’re going to talk about oral
argument later but while we’re here I’ll show you what’s available at the US
Supreme Court’s website so the Supreme Court website has oral argument and
audio files and transcripts available so one thing you could do is click here on
oral argument and then let’s go to audio first so you have to know when your case
was decided and it actually came out in the 2018 term and it was this session
November 26 and so you click on the docket number so there is an audio file that you can
download in different formats and also here’s one way to access the transcript
of the oral argument it’s here in a PDF format the other way to get to the
transcript is just click on the transcript from the menu in the oral
arguments section of the Supreme Court website and you just have to go through
that same process of knowing what term it was and when it was heard and
choosing it from there okay now let’s go back to our presentation and we’ll look
at pacer pacer is an online service that allows instant access to virtually all
documents filed by a judge or the parties in all US courts of appeals
district courts and bankruptcy courts so that’s the federal district courts and
the US courts of appeals not the Supreme Court because the Supreme Court has
their own system pacer is financed by user fees and the cost is ten cents per
search or page that you look at an access page and it’s billed quarterly
but pacer just upped their cap so if you incur charges less than $30 $30 or less in a quarter then they don’t bill you anything so they like to say now as a
result over seventy five percent of active pacer users each quarter will not
pay a bill in addition federal courts also may grant fee exempt access to
those who qualify and then parties in a case and the attorneys of record can
also receive free copies of documents filed and then they have a whole
database of the opinions of the courts which are access free of charge by
anyone so let’s go live to pacer and you can click on it on the link from the
handout or it’s just pacer dot gov and there’s a lot of information here if
you’ve never used pacer we have pacer announcements and the newsletter is
informative so there’s some stuff there that you can look at also this is like a
little FAQ menu on the right here how to who can access pacer how do I
access pacer how much does pacer cost and then over here on the left are
frequently used so the here’s the fa Q’s frequently asked questions a link to
register for an account and here’s the training page so that’s all good stuff
to know if you want to register go up here and click on register and then you
can use this little guided tool to help you figure out what kind of account you
want but pretty much you’re going to want to get the Pacer case search only
because unless you are an attorney filing documents or a pro se litigant or
involved in some kind of case those are the other options so if you’re
doing research choose case search only and then complete the online
registration form and I think at some point you put in a credit card but
they’re not going to charge you unless you incur over $30 worth of charges in
one quarter so let’s go I’m going to show you here so to find dockets you
would click on find a case and you could either start with the Pacer case locator
or search individual court websites so let’s start with the Pacer case locator
and then I have to log in so it should have saved my login information that’s
the right one yep so the Pacer case locator is a national
index for the US district courts appellate courts and bankruptcy courts
and you would want to use this finding tool if you’re not sure in which
specific federal court the case was filed
you can also conduct nationwide searches to determine whether or not a party is
involved in a federal case and the pacer database updates at midnight each day so
let’s look at the court information before we run our search if you come up
here to this menu and click on court information then this tells you what the
content coverage is for each case so it’s a super
long list of every court that’s included here every district court bankruptcy
court and appellate court alphabetical so you can scroll through it you can
change how many you’re looking at and you can also search so maybe I just want
to pull up all the Indiana Courts so I’ll just type in Indiana and here are all
the Indiana courts and I can see how far back the case coverage goes so the
Indiana Northern District Court has some dockets back to 1968 and then you can
see how current they are they’re all current as of yesterday okay let’s go
back and look at searches and there are different searches you can do you can do
a basic case search advanced case search party search advanced party search or
bankruptcy search pretty much with the advanced searches you just get more
fields to type in more information such as we’ll start here we’ll type in the
party name I was looking up oops I’ll just type it the last name is swift the
first name is Taylor the party role was plaintiff so if you want you could
pre-filter with the plaintiff also if you don’t know what any of these
categories mean you just hover over the question mark in the blue circle and it
will tell you what all these fields mean like here’s the docket number field and
it tells you it gives you suggestions on formatting your docket numbers and then
region is your jurisdiction so I’m going to select this case is in the Ninth
Circuit and then if I wanted I could add some date ranges I’m going to click
search that’s weird why does it come back I’ll just try the name okay so this is
just using names so here are all of the cases with a party named Taylor
Swift and the case I was looking for is from the US Court of Appeals in the
Ninth Circuit and I’m going to select that case and here is the docket sheet
for this case in the Ninth Circuit and we’ll come back and look at that the
other search that you can do I’m going to go back to pacer dot gov and then I’m
going to click on find a case you can go ahead and search individual court
websites if you know the location of a case so you can click on that and you
get the listing of all the courts and I have another case in mind that came out
of the DC Circuit so I’m going to choose that and then it will ask you to log in
to pacer again but if you’re already logged in you shouldn’t have to so I’m
going to click on log in to pacer and now I’m in the DC Circuit’s pacer and
this is basic search and here’s the link here to advanced search in this case I’m
going to type in the docket number for the case so it was 13 – 52 70 other
information could add would be party or attorney
names the case type I could select a case type here I could select the case
origin so I could search for cases only from a particular originating court if I
had the original court case number I could type that there I could choose to
find cases that all designated under a particular nature of suit code or I
could search for multiple cases filed closed between certain dates but I’m
just going to pull up this one case by its docket number and then so this is
interesting so even if notice even if you don’t get a result it still charges
you for viewing a page then I go back this is like when you teach and you go
to class and all your searches that you tried at home work and then you get up
in class in front of your students and nothing works so let’s see what did I
click on I think I try it again I’ll just put it right here
135270 there it is okay so on this page you have a couple options here is
my docket number that I typed in so if I click on this docket number 13 52 70
that will take me right to the docket sheet if I click on the party name here
or the case title then that will take me to a case query which is a case search
so it will just run a search for this party name and then over here on the
right is the docket number for the originating case out of the district
court so I’m just gonna look at the appellate court and here’s the appellate
docket sheet and notice this is not the entire
docket sheet I can click on full docket and now I want to run that docket report
and it’s gonna charge me 70 cents to look at that so notice at the top of the
docket sheet here’s our docket number our nature of suit code our case title
this is the National Association of convenience
stores versus the Federal Reserve System this case is on appeal from the US
District Court from the District of Columbia and here are all of the
attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants and there were a ton because
a lot of parties joined and then if you scroll down past all of the attorneys
then you have your your docket sheet so notice here there is a title and a
description of each pleading and document in the docket sheet with the
dates that they were entered there’s a little description that tells you how
long the documents are and then this little symbol will let you open the
docket so I clicked on that and it’s telling me I will be billed for two
pages so then you have the option to accept the charges and retrieve and then
here’s my document also if you want the complaint then you have to go to the
district court case so here is that link for the originating case and my
appellate docket I click on that and now I’m going to run a report on the
district court docket number and scroll down and here’s that docket and I’ll
show you what that looks like so now you’ll see the documents are numbered
here’s the complaint so I click on the docket number and I can view all or
download all and that’s going to charge me 790 I hope I don’t rack up $30.00 so
the law library doesn’t get a bill and then it actually combined those three
PDFs into one document for me and I have the complaint and two other pleadings
that went with it so that’s a docket in pacer another thing you can find in
pacer are briefs so whatever when you’re in pacer or if
you find that link up there that says briefs you click on that and then just
type in your docket number and search fix your date range there and then those
are all of the briefs associated with the case and if I wanted to incur some
more charges I would just click on that but before they charge you they do give
you a download confirmation page that asks you whether or not you want to
accept the charges and retrieve okay so that’s pacer and now we’re going to look
at an alternative to pacer pacer has been criticized for being technically
out-of-date and hard to use and for demanding fees for records which are
actually in the public domain so in reaction to that
some nonprofit projects have made these documents available online for free
recap is an online archive and a free browser extension for Firefox and Chrome
that improves the experience of using pacer and it provides greater open
access to the public records in pacer so wait if you install the browser
extension then when you view these documents in pacer you will
automatically donate them to the public repository in recap which is hosted by
the Internet Archive and then recap will also save you money by alerting you when
you’re looking at a docket in pacer that the document that you want to open
is already available from the recap archive so part of recap is court
listener and that’s the archive and it’s a legal database operated by the free
law project and they have case law content similar to other free online
databases like last week when Kim showed us Google Scholar so I think they have
almost the same content for cases that Google Scholar has and you can search
for cases by keyword or citation and then the advanced searching will let you
limit by jurisdiction status filing etc the other part of court listener is the
recap archive and that’s where you can go to search for millions of pacer
documents and dockets that were gathered using the recap extension in Firefox and
Chrome so let’s hop over I want to show you I did download it in Firefox I click
OK and the case that I want to look for in pacer now so you can see up in the
right-hand corner of my browser is the the recap extension and I’m going to
look for a different Taylor Swift case and this one is Sean Hall V Taylor
Swift and actually I want to go this is the appellate court docket I
want to go to the district court docket I clicked on that link run the report
and I’ll scroll down to the filings that are listed and now if you can see in the
docket sheet in pacers see the little blue R that tells you that somebody has
already donated this document the complaint to recap so then I could click
on that and go to the recap archive and not have to pay pacer then also if I
want to click on a document here and download it and view it now because I’m
paying for it I am donating it to the recap archive so everybody wins click on that and see if that really
goes to recap yep see you click on that get this document for free from recap
and then it takes us to the free version the other thing let me go to the handout and here are the links so here’s the
link to get the extension and then here’s the archive where you could just
go here and search so you can type anything in the basic search box here or
you could put party names here in the case name so then click search and it
probably to limit by jurisdiction first but
here’s what a basic search is and here’s what the docket looks like here and if
the documents are in the court listener archive then you just click on the link
that says download PDF so that’s court listener and recap let’s go back now I
want to talk to you about where you can where else you can go to find court
records and briefs and one place you can go to find briefs available in print or
microfiche is your library and the Jerome Hall Law Library is one of only 10
repositories of US Supreme Court records and briefs in print and although our
collection is extensive it’s not complete so the US Supreme Court library
has the most complete collection of Supreme Court briefs so you can call the
clerk’s office if you can’t find something anywhere else
we also have print collections of records and briefs for the US Court of
Appeals the Indiana Supreme Court and the Indiana Court of Appeals briefs and
that content should be on the handout and our print briefs are housed in the
library until they’re bound and then they’re relocated to the Alf which is
the auxiliary library facility so it’s just off-site storage so we have to use
IU cat to retrieve those briefs so I’m we’re happy to help anyone who’s
looking for these types of materials we can get them for you scan them and send
them to you also on the the right side of the slide you can see the frees the
free places to go to get briefs we looked at the Supreme Court website
earlier there’s also the US Department of Justice office of the Solicitor
General and that they have a pretty large database of petitions for cert and
briefs filed by the Solicitor General going back to 1985 and then SCOTUS blog
is a free website that contains briefs and oral argument transcripts for cases
that have been granted cert and that goes back to 2007 then there
are three commercial databases that you can use if you have access to them these
aren’t necessarily legal databases so any academic library might have the
making of modern law Supreme Court records and briefs collection which
covers 1832 to 1978 and then ProQuest supreme court insight covers 1975 to
2018 and you can find complete case histories in ProQuest starting with the
petition for cert a complete docket with all of the briefs and the oral arguments
and the appendices and all that good stuff so let’s see I wanted to show you
the best place to go for oral argument so after the court agrees to hear a case
then the date is set up for the oral arguments and attorneys for each party
have 30 minutes to persuade the justices who then ask questions during the oral
argument transcripts and recordings of oral arguments before appellate courts
preserve the presentations made by attorneys for the parties and preserves
those questions asked by the judges so the best place to go is the Oyez project
and that’s a database on major constitutional cases heard by the US
Supreme Court and the audio recordings go back to 1955 and that’s when they
first began to record the oral argument so if we go to the handout the link for
oyez is I think on the third page so we’ll go here and you can browse by
cases or you can search for a case name so you could click on cases and browse
them by term or you can search so we’ll look for the Timb’s case Timb’s V Indiana
and if you click here you’ll hear the argument and
it’s synchronized with the transcript this is pretty cool and you can scroll
down the transcript and click on anywhere you want to go in the oral
argument and you see when a justice is speaking their photograph at the top is
highlighted you can’t hear it okay well you’ll have to go there on your own
because this is a super cool website so that’s the Oyez project and then if you
look at the slide or the handout you’ll see court listener has Supreme Court
oral argument back to 2003 but they have a huge database of oral argument for the
appellate courts and there’s a link in the handout that will take you to the
content coverage page and I looked at the Ninth Circuit they have oral
argument files audio files going back to 2003 so I think I can stop and take
questions if anybody has any questions that adobe thing I’m going to go ahead and put up the
download for the two documents that Jennifer gave us we uploaded those so
you can download those from the file share at the top it also has your LEU
certificate there at the bottom so I’m going to leave that up for a little bit
while Jennifer takes questions yeah if anybody look at the resource list and
you can see the the subscription databases that we have if you ever need
any court materials any Supreme Court briefs or anything that you don’t have
in your library just you know give us a call or you can email me and we can send
you PDFs we’re happy to do that for you also I would recommend registering for a
pacer account and playing around with it and just make sure you don’t accrue
thirty dollars in one quarter and you won’t be billed Jennifer I want to thank
both you and Kim for doing this for us I have learned a lot and I really
appreciate you guys doing this oh you’re welcome you’re very welcome

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