To find a pending lawsuit, visit or call the court clerk's office where the case was filed. You can also use online search engines like the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) or electronic access provided by many courts' websites.
A pending lawsuit is one that has been started but is not finished. This term includes everything from a complaint that has been filed but not yet served to a lawsuit that has gone to trial and is awaiting a decision.
Pending lawsuits are not complete yet, so you can't find them in published case compilations. If you want to look up a pending lawsuit, it is usually to find some fact about the matter, like the name of the defense attorney or which documents have been served. You might also want to find out about the existence of a lawsuit, e.g. whether a case has been filed against you.
Court Records Available at Court Clerk's Office
If you know that a case has been filed in a particular court, go to the court clerk's office and ask to see the file. If you aren't sure of the court, try the court in the town where the parties live or the accident, incident, divorce or death occurred.
For example, to do a lawsuit lookup of a probate case, go to the probate court clerk's office in the county in which the person died. Even if you don't know the case number, the clerk can find the file. Bring along the name, address and date of death of the deceased.
If you are just interested in basic case information – for example, to determine whether a particular individual or company has filed for bankruptcy – try calling the court. Bankruptcy courts have a phone information system called the Voice Case Information System that provides essential case data to callers. It's fast, free and available 24 hours a day.
Online Court Case Information
For information about an active case that is pending far from your current location, try searching online. Many courts maintain case records online, so see what is available. A useful starting point is the Massachusetts Legal Services website which provides a list of court websites by state.
Public Access to Court Electronic Records
Many case files are available electronically through PACER. After setting up a PACER account, you can find appellate, district, and bankruptcy court case and docket information.
You don't need the case number to search PACER cases. You can search U.S. bankruptcy courts with the names of parties, Social Security numbers or tax identification numbers. Search for district court cases by case number, names of parties or a range of time for the filing date.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.