How to Search Texas State and Federal Court Dockets

, Texas Lawyer

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PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records): PACER offers comprehensive access to all federal court filings. It's also inexpensive, at 10 cents per page.

Search options are limited, however. Users may search by party name or case number, and they can narrow the search by date or by a code for the nature of suit. PACER started adding images of documents in the early 2000s, and, if they are not available, users must contact the court to retrieve them from archives (which can take a couple of weeks).

There are two kinds of PACER access: a password for searching and a password issued to attorneys by the court for electronic filing. Users can search all courts with the "Pacer Case Locator" search.

Courthouse News Service.CNS is a subscription service that tracks new cases in various courts in every state. It does not have dockets available, but CNS is handy for locating complaints from federal courts, larger state courts and smaller rural counties. It is a yearly subscription, and individual complaints range in price from free to $50.

Users can set up "dingers" and "trackers" to notify them of new developments.

Searching native sites.Some state courts offer search capabilities through their web sites.

Harris County: This user-friendly site makes dockets and documents available. Users must register for a username and password, but there is no fee and only a small charge for certified copies.

Dallas County: Users can access case information and also download documents for free.

Travis County: Only attorneys may register, search the court records and download documents.

Tarrant County: Users must register and pay $35 per month to subscribe.

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