The term “courthouse research,” as opposed to the commonly confused term, “legal research,” means literal, on-site pillaging of case data that is contained in the courthouse archives to search for information that may be relevant to a current matter. It is usually conducted by attorneys or pro se litigants on their own behalves, but hiring third party contractors greatly reduces the time spent digging that such busy professionals cannot afford to lose.
While legal research includes the perusal of published cases (either in print or via online databases), courthouse research is different. Published cases are selected because they either update existing caselaw or address new matters that never went before the court. That means that most cases that are directly related to your matter, client, or witnesses are not usually as easily accessible, though they are still matters of public record. If you need to review records from these cases, the only way that you can do so is by searching for, making copies of, or requesting records at the courthouse where the matter was originally heard.
Why is Courthouse Research Necessary?
Finding records of previously adjudicated cases helps lawyers and pro se litigants with current matters that may be similar in nature. After all, judges are supposed to use prior decisions and rulings within their jurisdiction to decide matters that come before them in the present day. This means precedents are valuable to attorneys for putting together a solid case.
That said, if records are not stored electronically, or, at the very least, they haven’t been scanned into a database, locating exactly what you need can be a challenging, if not impossible, accomplishment. It can take upwards of an entire day to find just one document that you need. Not to mention that the older a record is, it is mostly likely more difficult to locate.
Usually, the records are available in area courthouses and government buildings. When comes to court records, it is as easy as finding out where the case was heard. Unfortunately, depending on your district, or even the type of courthouse you are searching, you will find completely different standards for how records are stored and managed. They may have a computerized system, but it is more likely that they will have designated record rooms, or, in larger jurisdictions, records may be stored in a larger warehouse. Some locations are locked or guarded by security officers, though you should still be able to make copies once you are let in.
Locating personal records, such as birth, death, and marriage certificates, decrees of divorce, real property and land records along with titles and deeds, and last wills and testaments, is also tedious and time-consuming work. After finding what you need, you will also need to obtain certification from whomever is tasked with being the official keeper of the records. Certified copies of records may be admitted into court or legally used for specific reasons, such as identification purposes, or for the sale of real estate.
Lafayette Process Servers is willing to do your courthouse and government building research for you, on your behalf, so you can remain free to concentrate on other pressing matters. We know that extensive research takes up time that you may not have, though the process is certainly necessary. Give us a call if want trained researchers to obtain exactly what you need, every time.