The different types of district court records are held at the district courts where the proceedings were held and are maintained by the court clerks. There are various types of records, including electronic or paper case files and docket information, historical case records, and archived case files. The contents of case files often include all of the court documents related to court proceedings. These may include motions filed and submitted to the district court, complaints, and affidavits. Public records are often free to individuals who want go in person to the court to view the files, although courts charge fees to make photocopies in most cases.
The ability to review electronic district court records is often convenient for attorneys and other individuals who need to review case files in district courts that are located in different regions or nationwide. Many district courts allow the public to access some of their records using the Internet, either through the court’s website or an outside service. For example, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records, known as PACER, is a web-based centralized service that allows users to research court cases and docket information from district courts in the United States for a fee. It’s a government program funded by taxpayers, and similar private and public services enable users to research cases without traveling to the district court where the cases were heard. Users must often register to use a service and pay a per-page fee to review electronic district court records.
Paper case files are district court records that individuals can review by visiting the court where the proceeding was heard, and some of the records in paper case files may not be available in electronic versions. The case files contain every document filed and submitted to the court in connection with court proceedings. For example, both parties have to submit legal pleadings during the course of a trial and in accordance with court deadlines that are based on district court rules and proceedings. Those pleadings are collected and filed by the court clerk and staff and assembled in files. District courts often keep court case files available for a designated period of time at the courthouse before sending the files to the archives.
District court records include court docket information, which lists the parties to all cases being heard and trial dates. The case number is often listed on the docket. Individuals may use court dockets to research pending cases and to find case numbers needed to obtain the case files.