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  • October 02, 2013

    Tracking Federal, District, and Bankruptcy Court Cases a Challenge? Try a PACER RSS Feed

    Early last year, the judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Documents (PACER) implemented RSS feeds to more easily track case activity in federal courts. This features eases what was for many PACER users a headache.

    Nancy Scibelli Bouthilet

    RSS feedOct. 2, 2013 – Prior to the implementation of RSS feeds, the only option to track filings in federal courts was to manually log into the judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Documents (PACER) to check the docket sheet or search for cases, or to use a commercial legal research information provider, which would likely charge a fee, to track new case filings.

    Which Courts Offer RSS Feeds?

    Many but not all federal district and bankruptcy courts offer an RSS feed. You can determine if a court offers an RSS feed by visiting the Individual Court Sites PACER webpage. Next to most of the court names, for example the Eastern District of Wisconsin U.S. District Court, you will notice some brown icons. If you see a light brown RSS feed icon, the court has an RSS feed available.

    Nancy Scibelli BouthiletNancy Scibelli Bouthilet is the Director of Knowledge Management at Locke Lord LLP in Dallas. Prior to joining Locke Lord LLP in 2011, she was the Manager of Library & Research at Quarles & Brady LLP in Milwaukee.

    As of today, RSS feeds are available for the Wisconsin Eastern and Western U.S. District Courts and the Wisconsin Eastern and Western District U.S. Bankruptcy Courts. This feature is not currently available for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

    RSS feeds are being made available as courts upgrade to new versions of PACER’s case management and electronic court filing system.

    What Information Does an RSS Feed Provide?

    The RSS feed provides updates on all case filings in the specific court. The feed typically includes:

    • case name and number

    • summarized text describing what was filed – typically includes the name of the document filed

    • hyperlinks to the document or docket report

    Make the Feed Work for You

    You may not want a feed of all new filings in a specific court. This is the default option for the RSS feed content. Make the feed work for you by filtering the content to meet your needs. For example, using an RSS feed reader, you can filter the results to be notified of new filings in a specific case or that name a particular party in a case. To do this, be sure to select an RSS reader that offers key word filters. This functionality is not available in all RSS readers. An RSS reader that I recently tested that offers key word filters is Curata.

    What is the Cost?

    The RSS feed is free. Viewing the full-text of any document linked to in the feed results requires a PACER account. When you click links in the feed results to view the full text of a document or docket report, you are required to log into PACER and the standard PACER access fees apply. If you do not have a PACER account you will not be able to access the documents or docket sheets. You may utilize a commercial legal research information provider to access docket sheets and pleadings if you do not have a PACER account.

    Recommended Reading

    For an overview of RSS feed technology, I recommend reviewing Technology: RSS - Making the Internet Subscribeable by Bonnie Shucha from Wisconsin Lawyer, August 2006, V. 79, No. 8. For suggested RSS readers, run a quick Google search. Google Reader was discontinued earlier this year, which prompted many reviews of RSS readers that are alternatives to the popular defunct Google Reader.

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