Why Records & Briefs?
Legal researchers often review the records and briefs of a case for insights into the legal reasoning and authorities used by the parties in advocating their positions.
The records of a case may include pleadings, motions, trial transcripts, orders, instructions to juries, judgments and other materials.
What is actually included in the published record for each case varies widely.
For an overview of some interesting uses for court documents, see this article from the American Bar Association:
Finding Records and Briefs
Before you start, try to gather the following information:
- Docket/Case number
- Party names
The more information you have, the easier it will be to find court filings.
Depending on the court and time period involved, it may be difficult to track down the records and briefs for a particular case. Please visit the Reference Desk for assistance if you are unable to locate the records and briefs for your case. The very useful A Union List of Appellate Court Records and Briefs: Federal and State by Michael Whiteman and Peter Scott Campbell (Reference Desk KF 105.9 .W49 1999) describes what libraries hold what records and briefs, and whether they are available for interlibrary loan. You may also want to consult Free and Fee Based Appellate Court Briefs Online, a web-based article by Michael Whiteman with links to many sources for briefs.
If we are unable to find a source for the records and briefs you need, you may have to contact the court or the parties to request copies. Although records and briefs are part of the public record, be aware that courts traditionally charge a fee to make copies.
Selected sources for records, briefs and court filings are presented in this guide. The records and briefs are available in a number of formats including paper, microform, pdf and online through such services as LexisNexis and Westlaw.
Please contact the reference desk, (617) 495-4516, located just off the reading room on the fourth floor of Langdell Hall with any questions.