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Individual federal trial court dockets
To research an individual judge in the federal trial courts (district, magistrate, and bankruptcy judges) use Bloomberg Law dockets for insight into the types of cases currently pending (you can also view some historical docket information).
- Litigation & Dockets > Search Dockets > type name of court (e.g., SDNY) in Courts box, select the court (e.g., " U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Dockets") > type name in Judge box > set Case Status field to "Open" > "Submit"
- for currently pending cases, set the Case Status field to Open; otherwise, you will see all cases (such information is more easily viewed via WestLaw's Profiler, in the Litigation History Report).
- Reading the results - the "Federal Nature of Suit" filter shows (in descending order of frequency) the types of cases pending.
- The number in (parentheses) - not the number in [square brackets] - is the number of results in that general category, according to the civil cover sheet (a form filed by the attorney filing a complaint, which requires a single "check the box" response).
- Click on Select More ... to see a full alphabetical list of the case types (and their frequency) appearing in your results.
- You can also use the check boxes to filter for case types you have a particular interest in, but note that not all legal topics neatly fit into one of the Nature of Suit classifications.
Jurisdictional caseload information
Often the only caseload information you can access may be based on the court's general docket (not your specific judge's docket). See the Jurisdiction Information section of this guide for some statistical table and report sources for various courts.
You can get an overview of a court's caseload, and the current (open) docket of all federal district and appellate courts,* on Bloomberg Law:
- Overview of court activity - 3-bar menu > Litigation > Litigation Analytics > Court tab > type in name (e.g., e.d. tenn.) > Appearances & Case Types tab
- Dashboard view shows top case types in this court, based on analytics on open and closed dockets (generally 2007-present); select filters at left side to search or browse for other case types (e.g., patents or environmental - note that not all legal topics neatly fit into the listed options), and/or change time period included (e.g., past 3 years).
- "Length of Case" and "Appeal Outcomes" (each also can be filtered to particular case types) can also give you some general insight into the court's caseload.
- Current/open cases - 3-bar menu > Litigation > Search Dockets > type name of court (e.g., 9th circuit) in Courts box, select the court (e.g., "U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Dockets") > Case Status "Open" > "Submit"
- Federal Nature of Suit filters at the left side of the results shows a list (in descending order of frequency) of the general types of cases (e.g., criminal, civil rights - employment, contract, etc.) currently open in your court.
- The number in (parentheses) - not the number in [square brackets] - is the number of results in that category (top results may be "1000+" but clicking "show more" will let you see other case type frequencies).
- Filter for case types you have a particular interest in (e.g., "Other Statutes - Environmental Matters " or "Civil Rights - Amer. w/Disabilities - Employment "), but note that not all legal topics neatly fit into one of the Nature of Suit classifications.
* Many state court dockets are also available, but the results can be difficult to interpret due to the lack of "nature of suit" filters that would enable you to analyze the frequency of types of cases or appeals. The caseload or other court statistics listed in the Jurisdiction Information section of this guide may provide an easier "profile" view of a state court's general caseload profile.
Direct case searching
In addition to the noteworthy cases found in biographical listings or recent news sources (see Basic Prep section of this guide), you can search directly in case databases for decisions by your judge. Here are some steps to be as complete but as efficient as possible:
- Search all three major case law resources (Westlaw, Lexis and Bloomberg), since coverage may differ.
- Search for your judge's name in the "judge" field, but be careful in applying jurisdiction limits - for example, in searching for a federal district court judge's decisions, remember s/he may have sat by designation on an appellate case, so don't limit by jurisdiction to the district court:
- in Westlaw, use JU(firstname w/3 lastname) - e.g., JU(Loretta w/3 Preska)
- in Lexis, use JUDGE(firstname w/3 lastname) - e.g., JUDGE(Loretta w/3 Preska)
- in Bloomberg Law, under "Search and Browse" choose "Search Opinions" to use the Judge field
- NOTE: if this finds 0 or very few results, there has been a bug in tagging that judge's opinions; go back to the search template and try the judge's name in the Keywords field (e.g., "Loretta n/2 Preska" and use limit in the Date field to dates after your judge's appointment).
- Add keywords (or citations) to your search to find your judge's decisions involving topics of interest to you:
- be flexible about citation forms if you want to search for decisions that discuss particular statutes, regulations or cases, since using an exact phrase search can miss decisions where the citation was not formatted exactly the same way as yours.