How to Check the Status of a Federal Case

Checking the status of a federal case has become increasingly easy thanks to the advent of the Internet. Today's technology allows interested parties to search court documents directly. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, there is more and more information available on federal cases every day over the telephone or on the Internet.

Contact the clerk's office at the courthouse. In most cases, the clerk's office will respond to inquiries on the status of a federal case at no charge.

Talk to the clerk's office about information retrieval and searches. While most inquiries are done at no cost, there are a few exceptions. In some cases a small fee may be assessed to check the status of a federal case.

Make copies of all the relevant court documents. Most of these are a matter of public record and therefore accessible to the general population. There may be a fee for copying certain court documents.

Retrieve status information on federal cases using the telephone. Using a touch-tone phone, you should be able to check case information regarding decisions made by the appellate courts and in many bankruptcy hearings.

Go to the federal courthouse where you live. At the public counter there you should find computers set up with an automated system that allows users to search court documents and information on individual federal cases.

Use your Internet connection at home or work to access much of the same information. If you are unable to physically go to your local courthouse it is usually possible to find such information online.

Visit the United States government online for links to websites for each of the individual courts (see Resources below). At this website you can also find a directory of court services available to the general public.

Talk to a lawyer if you have questions about accessing information or legal definitions. The court system is incredibly complex and legal language is highly sophisticated and filled with specialized terms. Many people will need help simply making sense of the information they retrieve.


  • While most information on federal court cases is available to the general public, know that in some cases records may be sealed for various reasons. This is often true in cases involving minors and in other special circumstances.

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