By Eric Taylor, Reference Librarian
The Free Law Project recently announced the availability of PACER Docket Alerts on CourtListener.com. CourtListener is a free public access website tracking federal and state courts. The Docket Alert tool will send you an email anytime there is a new court filing in a case you are following in PACER. Access to PACER documents is provided by the website’s RECAP function. Clicking on the RECAP Archive link allows users to search for available PACER filings.
Setting up Docket Alerts using CourtListener is simple (quoting the Free Law Project’s press release):
“The best way to get started with Docket Alerts is to just make one. Try loading a popular case like U.S. v. Manafort or The District of Columbia v. Trump. Once the case is open, just press the “Get Alerts” button near the top. Then, just wait for your first alert.”
Give it a try. I did with U.S. v. Manafort and the Docket Alerts started flowing in the very first day the alert was set, and they just keep coming.
The primary source powering these alerts is RSS data provided by PACER websites. However, not all courts have RSS feeds yet. So another very important source is the docket information contributed by RECAP users. Attorneys and others who download documents from the PACER system using their paid accounts can participate by installing the RECAP Extension to then upload these same documents to CourtListener’s RECAP Archive. To date, 37M PACER docket entries have been uploaded to the RECAP Archive which includes 6.5M searchable PDFs. The RECAP Archive continues to grow with the addition of over 100,000 docket entries and 2000 PDFs every day.
The value of CourtListener goes well beyond RECAP and PACER. CourtListener also provides a free searchable archive of over 4M court opinions with more being added by the day. They also have one of the largest collections of oral arguments available on the Internet. Their coverage page breaks down the figures and services in greater detail.
There really is no other legal website like it. As the courts continue to charge the public fees for access to PACER, the Free Law Project practices what they call PACER Advocacy to bring these documents out into the light for the world to see for free.
Access to free PACER Docket Alerts is not unlimited, however. Any user can monitor five dockets for free. Those who install the RECAP Extension will get an additional ten docket alerts. Users who make monthly contributions to the Free Law Project can make as many alerts as they need (within a reasonable limit). The current suggested minimum monthly donation is five dollars per month.