The short answer is yes. Lawsuits are public record, and anyone can find information about lawsuits by searching the court’s docket, either online or in person at the county clerk’s office. If the lawsuit is a federal lawsuit, a person can go to the courthouse, or search the court’s electronic filing system for a fee.
When a case settles out of court, however, the details of the settlement can be kept confidential – all the public record will show is that the case settled out of court, but it will not contain details of the settlement if the parties agree to not publish those details.
Lawsuits Are Generally Public Record
Civil lawsuits are generally public record. Civil proceedings are any proceedings that are not for the prosecution of a crime, such as lawsuits for personal injury and wrongful death. Criminal proceedings are also generally public record.
Certain information may be kept confidential such as the names of parties or victims who are minors or victims of sexual assault. Parties to lawsuits can also request that certain sensitive records be sealed and kept private. Each state’s laws and rules vary on what can be sealed and what cannot in a court proceeding.
Types of Public Information on Lawsuits
Court records are kept in what is called the docket, which is a list of all the documents filed in the case as well as text entries for proceedings like hearings that have been held and hearings that are scheduled. Court dockets online often have links on the docket to view the documents filed such as pleadings, motions, letters and other papers.
Searching Court Records Online
Federal court lawsuits are available online at PACER.gov for cases filed after 1999. Federal cases include civil and criminal proceedings filed in federal district courts as well as appeals in the U.S. circuit courts of appeal and the United States Supreme Court. They also include bankruptcy filings and filings in the U.S. Tax Court. New York has an online system called eCourts that the public can access. The National Center for State Courts website contains links to court records sites for every state.