What are Pacer Court Records?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Court records are incredibly useful sources of information about the people they pertain to. Case and docket information can be used to form an understanding of an individual’s character and past movements. They can also be key in tracing an individual who is determined to avoid detection (for example, someone trying to skip out on a debt), or for illuminating the likely connections of persons of interest in a wider investigation.

What are PACER court records?

PACER, or Public Access to Court Electronic Records, is an online-based, public resource that allows its users to obtain access to case and docket information from Federal Appellate, Bankruptcy and District Courts. As a service of the United State Judiciary, PACER is run by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and has access to the records of each court system, though they are held separately. Unlike some other resources, such as Bloomberg Law, Lexis Advance CourtLink, and Westlaw Dockets, there is a fee associated with using PACER to access court records.

How are PACER court records useful?

Learning to make use of the PACER system and its resources can have many positive impacts for businesses and governmental bodies alike for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is that it gives access to information that would otherwise be impossible to access for most people. This information can be helpful in a number of endeavors including:

  • Examining witnesses and relationships.
  • Finding social connections.
  • Constructing a timeline of events.
  • Assessing patterns of behavior.
  • Tracing  individual people of interest.

Finding people of interest is one of the most common uses for accessed PACER records, though this work is not solely undertaken by law enforcement agencies. Debt collection agencies, private investigators and even licensed bounty hunters also use the PACER system for this purpose. Law firms can also use court documents like these to help in the settlement of ongoing family or civil disputes by providing evidence of behavior patterns and existing bad blood between parties. In short, the uses of the PACER system are varied and plentiful.

The benefits of PACER

While a public records search can be incredibly useful and informative, it also requires a huge amount of time to complete one manually. The hours and resources used to complete a manual public records search, therefore, could outweigh the potential benefits quite easily for small cases and entities. The use of a tool or resource like PACER, however, can partially automate the process and reduce the cost of completing a public record search in terms of time, thereby streamlining the research process. As well as offering access to a huge number of official records and saving time when compared to manual records searches, PACER offers a level of accessibility and convenience that has otherwise been unheard of. That doesn’t mean the system is without its faults.

The drawbacks of the PACER system

PACER has been widely criticized since its inception, partly because of privacy and data protection concerns, but also because of the costs associated with access. In fact, a 2006 investigation claimed that PACER was charging twice as much as necessary based on the costs of running the system.

The system has also been criticized for violating the privacy of readers by failing to provide anonymity and tracking reading records. There have also been problems with the reliability of the system and its user interface, though these issues are being steadily worn away by the progress in technology since PACER’s launch 25 years ago. In short, this is a useful system that has potential pitfalls to consider; these shortcomings don’t negate its usefulness, but users should be aware of them before deciding to make use of PACER court records. 

Who can use PACER court records?

Anyone who has used the kind of information held in court records like case files and dockets could feasibly benefit from using the PACER system. Nonetheless, there are entities and individuals who will get more use from the system than others, such as those whose business it is to track down debtors, find suspects who are evading detection, or investigate fraud. They include:

Take a look and see how they can help you today.