Monday, January 23, 2012

U.S. Courts PACER: An Accessible, Open-Source API

Get Access to All Information on the U.S. Courts Docketing System

Anyone who has tried to look up a court case on a government website has run into the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, or as everyone calls it: PACER. I have developed and just released a new API, that gives programmers access to all public information on the U.S. Federal Courts docketing system.

Features include:
1. Search for cases by party name, docket number, and filing date.
2. Retrieve the names of parties to a case, their attorneys, and law firms.
3. Download the entire docket of a particular case.
4. Download pdfs of individual filings and their attachments.
5. Keep track of costs of each PACER transaction.
Right now, there are hooks into all Federal District Courts, most Appeals Courts, most Bankruptcy Courts and also the I.T.C. I am not aware of any other service or API which offers something similar for the I.T.C.

This project does not make PACER free. It still costs $0.08 per page (which can add up quickly). Although the API works perfectly as stand-alone python, it can plug into Django (or any other python framework) very easily. There are also hooks (and some meager documentation) to make it work on google app engine.

Also note that this project is released under the AGPL, a free and open-source license, but one which requires you to open-source your code if you use it in a program or a web-app.

The project can be found:

I am building a web-service which exposes a REST API to PACER and it will use this open-source API. If you are interested in learning more, let me know.