You can find out if someone has a court date pending by checking in person, on a court's website, or by phone. In certain situations, fees may apply. Most of the time, basic information about court cases, such as court dates, are public information and relatively simple to obtain. United States courts consist of state and federal levels that branch out into many other categories such as circuit, district, superior, probate and juvenile. In certain court cases, sealed records require formal requests to open them.
Start With the Basics
Court dates and other basic information are often available online, and you can search the court calendars by using the first and last name of the person involved in the case. The National Center for State Courts provides judicial links for each state and levels of court in each state. Many phone books also have government pages that list federal, state and local court addresses and phone numbers that provide automated data when you call.
Public Information in Person
If you must talk to a court clerk in person or on the phone, ask for the procedure for searching court records by a person's name. Courts typically refer to parties scheduled to appear in court as defendants and plaintiffs. If you go to the courthouse, the clerk must show you any public case information or allow you to access their public computers, if provided, for most case searches. If you can't find information on the local level, the next step is federal court.
Searching Electronic Records
Register an account with the Public Access to Court Electronic Records website to search for federal, appellate, district and bankruptcy cases. PACER offers online access to many public case files and provides 24-hour service, including weekends. Fee waivers apply for charges that do not exceed $10 for a quarterly billing cycle. Waiver exceptions apply for name searches, transcripts of federal court proceedings and non-case specific reports.
You can call the PACER Service Center at 800-676-6856 with questions about the service. You can also access the PACER free automated "Voice Case Information System" or "Appellate Voice Information System" with a touch-tone phone. This service has limited court case information and offers an automated number to reach a clerk.