How to Use CourtListener


For a journalist, there are few more illuminating resources than court filings and documents. They help in every facet of reporting a story: backgrounding a particular subject and/or person, studying a topic in concrete detail, fact checking details--the list goes on.

That’s what makes Courtlistener such a vital tool.

Courtlistener is a legal research website and data provider containing: legal opinions from federal, state, and specialty courts; documents from the Federal PACER system; minutes of oral argument recordings; and a database judges.

Not only is it easily searchable, but it’s free. Yes, free.

You can search everything from civil litigation to Supreme Court rulings.

So, say you’re looking into lawsuits involving Donald Trump. Simply click the tab that says “Opinions,” type in Donald J Trump, and scroll through the results.

The same can be done with a general topic, and within specific jurisdiction.

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Let’s say you’re conducting an investigation into how political contributions have been litigated in New York State. Again, go to the Opinions section. Type in “political donations.”

Then, in click on the “Select Jurisdictions” tab below the search bar. Click “clear all” up top, and then click into the “State” tab. You can then select the New York Courts you want to search, and your results will be limited to those and those alone.

Have reporting questions? Send them our way.

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