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Options to Access Records if you Cannot Afford PACER Fees

Indigent individuals, litigants and other people who cannot afford to pay PACER fees can request PACER fee exemptions from individual courts, upon a showing of cause. 

A court determines on a case-by-case basis whether certain unrepresented (pro se) litigants, indigent persons, or groups of people like CJA panel attorneys or bankruptcy trustees, may be exempt from PACER fees. A court will grant an exemption upon finding that the requesting party has demonstrated that an exemption is necessary to avoid unreasonable burdens and to promote public access to information.

Unrepresented (Pro Se) litigants and individuals who cannot afford to pay (Indigent) should directly contact each court from which you are requesting the exemption. Exemption request procedures may vary from court to court.

Before You Request an Exemption

You may be able to access the court records you need without paying a fee or requesting an exemption. There is no fee to register for a PACER account. There is no charge for accessing up to $30 in charges per quarter (January-March, April-June, July-September, October-December). Charges apply after users accrue more than $30 each quarterly billing cycle. 

Read the Pricing page for more information on when PACER is free and for tips on limiting fees.

When is PACER free?

  • You access $30 or less worth of court records within a quarterly billing cycle. Users are not billed unless they accrue charges of more than $30 in a quarter (January-March, April-June, July-September, October-December).
  • Parties in a case (including pro se litigants) and attorneys of record receive one free electronic copy, via the notice of electronic filing or notice of docket activity, of all documents filed electronically, if receipt is required by law or directed by the filer.
  • Accessing court opinions
  • Viewing case information or documents at courthouse public access terminals.

Read the Electronic Public Access Fee Schedule for detailed information on accessing information through PACER for free.

Additional Free Sources for Court Records

  • Court opinions from many appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts are available for no fee in a text searchable format on the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) website. Opinions are available from more than 130 courts and date back to April 2004.
    • You can search across all opinions. For example, search "USA v." and all opinions with that term will come up in your results.
  • The Federal Judicial Center provides the Federal Court Cases Integrated Database (IDB) free of charge. The IDB contains data on civil case and criminal defendant filings and terminations in the district courts, along with bankruptcy court and appellate court case information.

Documents Available Through PACER

Searching with PACER can help you find and view case summaries, docket entries, and copies of the documents filed in each case.

Image
An example of a court docket.
An example of a court docket.

PACER does not provide access to general legal research materials such as law books, law journal articles, treatises, statutes, or regulations.  

If you would like to try PACER and see what types of documents are available before registering, please visit our demonstration site, which is free to use.

Contact Us

For assistance with registration, account management, conducting searches within PACER, or locating a specific document, please contact the PACER Service Center.

For information on procedures for seeking an exemption, contact the court from which you are requesting the exemption.