Bankruptcy court records are public records everyone has the right to see. Bankruptcy courts in Florida make their court cases available electronically for online review and download. To view them online you have to use the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), which requires registration and payment for viewing records. You can also go to the Court Clerk's office and look at the records there online.
Registering for a PACER Account
All federal courts in every state, including Florida, use PACER to host their records electronically. You have to register to use PACER. Registration involves submitting basic name and address information, and there's no charge. You pay the service quarterly for the documents you view and the searches you make.
Accessing and Using PACER
You can access PACER by going directly to PACER.gov, or you can get to it through the websites for the Southern, Middle or Northern Florida Bankruptcy Courts. Log in to PACER with the user name and password you received with your registration package. Search for the bankruptcy case you want. You can search by case number, the name of the individual or business filing bankruptcy, Social Security number or tax identification number.
What Does PACER Show?
If you look up a particular bankruptcy case on PACER, you'll be able to view the entire history of documents filed in the case from the beginning, including the bankruptcy petition and schedules and any motions, notices or orders filed by the debtor, the trustee, the creditors or the court. The list of documents and events, called a docket, provides a chronological list of all the things that happened in the case. You can also look at the list of creditors who filed claims in the case as well as all the attorneys who appeared in the case and other important information.
Most documents on PACER are in PDF format, so you'll need a PDF reader to view them.
The Costs of Using PACER to View Records
At time of writing PACER charges you a dime for every page of bankruptcy documents it produces. A 10-page legal document costs you a dollar. If you search for a name in PACER and get two pages of matches, that's 20 cents. If a document runs more than 30 pages, you won't be charged more than $3. This may not sound like much, but bankruptcy filings can involve hundreds of pages of documentation and files, and if you look at a lot of documents, it can add up. PACER will require you to put a credit card on file, and it'll bill you on a quarterly basis for the records you viewed during the quarter.
Visit the Clerk and View Records
If you don't want to set up your own PACER account, you can go to the bankruptcy court clerk's office and view documents on PACER free of charge. If you want copies printed, you'll have to pay a fee of 10 cents per page. If the case is older than October 17, 2005, and not available on PACER, you may need to get hard copies pulled and copied for 50 cents per page.
You can view bankruptcy court records in Florida and in any other bankruptcy court by either registering online for an account at PACER.gov or going to the bankruptcy court clerk's office in person and reviewing records there.
- A typical bankruptcy case easily generates dozens or hundreds of documents and thousands of pages of materials. There is no easy way to cruise through all the PACER information, as the system has no internal search function. Users have to select documents of possible interest and view them to determine if they are, in fact, of interest.
David Sarokin is a well-known specialist on Internet research. He has been profiled in the "New York Times," the "Washington Post" and in numerous online publications. Based in Washington D.C., he splits his time between several research services, writing content and his work as an environmental specialist with the federal government. David is the author of Missed Information (MIT Press, 2016), a book exploring how better information can lead to a more sustainable future.