Existing Case Information FAQs

  1. How do I get access to docket information?

    Docket information for the Northern District of California is available from the electronic filing system via PACER (

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  2. How do I obtain copies of documents in court files?

    See Obtaining Copies of Court Documents for complete information on the various options.

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  3. How do I obtain information (such as party names, attorneys, case number, judge assigned to the case and the status) for a case?

    Computer Access

    Electronic case summaries and docket information may be viewed through the court’s Electronic Case Filing (ECF) system. A PACER account is required. Visit the PACER website to register (

    In Person

    In the Clerk’s Office of the San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose courthouses, public terminals are available at which members of the public may look up case information and view and print case documents. These are available during the hours the Clerk’s Office is open.

    For cases that predate e-filing (about 2001 for civil cases and 2005 for criminal cases), electronic dockets are usually available online. Hard copy case files may be available for viewing and copying in the Clerk’s Office, although hard copy case files are gradually being replaced with scanned electronic versions. If you would like to view case documents that are not available via the electronic docket, please speak to the Clerk’s Office staff.

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  4. How do I access an archived case file?

    Approximately one year after the time to appeal has expired on a case, its file will be sent from the Clerk’s Office to the Federal Records Center. Members of the public have two options for retrieving case information or copies of documents from the Federal Records Center:

    Through the Clerk’s Office

    The file may be ordered for viewing at the Clerk’s Office. A fee applies to this service. When ordering a file, please include the case name, case number, filing date, and the title of the specific documents requested together with the requester’s name, address and daytime telephone number. It may take several days for the file to be shipped to the Clerk’s Office.

    From the National Archives and Records Administration

    Effective October 1, 2011, the National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”) will no longer provide on-site court case review services at its Federal Records Center in San Bruno, CA. NARA will continue to provide copies of court records by mail, fax, telephone, (see contact information below) or online (see and click on “Order Reproductions,” then “Court Records”). To order copies of case records from the NARA, you must provide the following information: (1) the state in which the case was filed, (2) the city in which the case was filed, (3) the case name(s), (4) the case number, (5) the transfer number, (6) the box number, and (7) location number, all of which can be obtained from the Clerk’s Office where the case was filed. This information may be obtained via CM/ECF or PACER (see instructions below), in person, by phone, or by writing to the Records Department of the Clerk’s Office division where the action was filed.

    To obtain case file location information from ECF/PACER. Simply log-in to ECF or PACER, click on Query, type in the case number, and then click Run Query. On the next screen click on Case File Location. The following screen will display the case number and a check box for each volume of the case file. Check the appropriate box(es) and then click Submit. ECF/PACER will display the accession, location, and box number(s) information.

    Federal Records Center

    1000 Commodore Drive
    San Bruno, CA 94066-2350
    Phone: 650-238-3500
    Fax: 650-238-3507

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  5. How do I get notified of new activity on a case?

    CM/ECF now allows for notifying news agencies or other interested parties of case activity in the CM/ECF system by registering for our new “Special Mailing Group” (or SMG).

    Here’s how it works:

    1. You must be registered with PACER. (If you have a PACER account already, do not register
    2. You must then register here for the SMG (see below).
    3. When the registration is complete (1-2 business days), we will issue you a new SMG password for CM/ECF via email.
    4. The login & password will only allow you to:
      1. Change your personal information (login, password, address, email, etc.)
      2. Add/edit/delete cases that you wish to “watch” (i.e., get email notices)
    5. With your SMG registration you can not efile or do anything else in ECF. To access CM/ECF
      Queries, Reports, etc., you will use your PACER login/password.

    Once You have your SMG login & password, and you add whichever cases you are interested in to your profile, you will get email notices of activity, when new activity occurs (just like everyone else on the case) BUT…

    1. You may need to use your PACER login to access the documents.
    2. You may be charged for accessing documents (but once you access the document, you can view, save or print it).
    3. Although you will get email notifications of activity, you will never have access to documents:
      • in Social Security cases
      • filed under sealed
      • filed as a “Limited Access” event
      • that were filed in paper only
        Please note that all documents in non-e-filing cases and/or paper-only filings in efiling cases cannot be accessed online, however there are clear instructions in these situations that these notices are “information only.” This is covered more thoroughly in our FAQ section.
    4. You will also never have access to, or notification from:
      • cases under seal
      • cases not in this court’s CM/ECF system
    5. You will also not get notice on any cases other than those you define in your profile. You must
      have the case number set in your profile in order to get notices on that case.
      Please note the case numbering format is always: YY-NNNNN (such as 05-12345), do not enter any letters.
    6. The court cannot guarantee anything regarding the SMG. This includes, but is not limited to: deletion of the SMG account, failure of delivery, timeliness or accuracy of emails, activity docketed late or activity not in the ECF system.

    The court reserves the right to remove or alter in any way the SMG program and/or the SMG registrant’s ECF accounts.

    The SMG program is much more accurate, cost-effective and easier for the court to manage than manual emailing, faxing or “snail-mailing”, and is the easiest for the recipients as well. The court will not be offering any other notification system or process and we cannot alter the SMG program to meet any individual needs.

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  6. How do I obtain a copy of a reporter’s transcript or electronic recording of a court proceeding?

    Most court hearings are either recorded by a court reporter or electronically recorded by a calendar clerk. Visit our Transcripts / Court Reporters page for complete information on ordering transcripts and recordings.

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