Free Legal Documents Can Be Found Online! How do I View or Access Free Copies of Public Records Court Documents Online?
**Before you read this walk-through and try to find these documents yourself, please call Mingledorff Law at 281-497-7180, or email me personally at [email protected]. We will advise you over the phone at no cost. We can help, so take advantage of us.**
Are you searching for a legal document?
There may come a time where you, “the internet,” wants to try to create your own legal document. This is really applicable to any type of law. Family law, Criminal Law, Civil Law Suits, Probate Contest Lawsuits, anything.
Yes, that’s right. This includes temporary orders, petitions, motions, orders, notices, discovery, requests, responses, answers, objections, final orders, motions for all of the above, compel, contempt, subpoenas, dismissals, nonsuit, gag orders, requests to appear via telephone, motion to strike, literally every type of legal document you can think of is out there for research, review, and learning.
You may also be curious about a specific legal issue or process, or maybe a case in particular. Again, all of these items will be in various public records.
Hire a Lawyer First:
As a lawyer I absolutely must to advise that readers should always, without question, one-hundred-percent of the time, hire a lawyer to handle your legal matters. One sentence dirty joke. There is no intent to market my firm specifically when I say that. Of course, yes, like any business, I want your business. However, you absolutely want a lawyer preparing these legal documents, and more importantly, presenting them to a Court.
We we are know the courts, might know the judges and their strict or not-so-strict policies, rules of procedure and evidence which dictate all courtroom proceedings, criminal or civil. These rules take years and years of experience to actually be good at this job. Court is serious stuff and you do not want to take chances.
If you attempt to handle legal matters on your own, there is a substantial likelihood that you are causing your issue more harm than good. A single missed deadline can result in a case being dismissed entirely, without any further chances at recovery.
Consider this, you think you know what to file and when to file it and you have it prepared and you file it on time. Unfortunately, this specific Court does not accept the lead document and associated attachments in one filing. They reject your filing, and you do not correct the error before the deadline. This scenario is not even a legal error, but a local preference that has caused you to miss a deadline. Now your case has been dismissed. You will then have to file a multitude of written motions and orally argue in Court to even have a chance are reviving your matter.
IF you need any assistance with preparation of your documents, or a review of documents you have created yourself, PLEASE, call us before you make a terrible litigation mistake, which may cost you your only chance at justice. We can review your materials at no cost, just call. We have been in litigation since 1984, and will offer you a review at no cost.
That said, I am aware that even if you have hired a lawyer, you may want to sift through public records!
Where Do I Find Free Legal Documents on The Internet?
Now despite the advice, which I know, 99.9% of readers ignored or failed to finish the paragraph above. It had a one sentence dirty joke, which you have now missed. You looked didn’t you? Hopefully you looked, read, and now understand that hiring a lawyer is seriously important when approaching a court situation. If you plan on going into court and go before a judge you will get roasted if you are not legitimately prepared. What is most likely to occur is that an error will cause your desired result to never occur. There aren’t really too many second chances at law. So again, hire a lawyer.
The process of finding legal documents is fairly simple. This is because these documents are public records. I, as a lawyer, learn a lot by reading hours and hours of legal documents similar to my desired issue. It is truly part of my research. I have found great cases or case law, great causes of action, great jury instructions, great legal memoranda, great discovery requests/objections/responses, clever arguments, and certainly fantastic motions and petitions. Anything really. That’s right, you can go out there and find the pleadings of your dreams as an excellent template using public records.
Of course, plagiarism is illegal. These resources are used simply for research purposes. Any publication of someone else’s work product must give credit to the creator through a citation. In my practice, I often try to find cases which I might want to read, or even discover a different organization of headings, content, or outline of materials, which might better present my own furnished arguments and facts and law.
Historically the process was painful. It required going to the District Clerks office, and basically just blind requesting documents, and reviewing for hours upon hours. This was also the process for legal research in general, but with books and a key system. Savvy lawyers such as a young Ken Mingledorff would buddy up with the District and County Clerks of Court employees in hopes that with time and good reputation, those Clerks would be able to help the research process tremendously.
Today the process is much more simple. Like most things today, this can be credited to the Internet. In large counties throughout, basically all legal documents for years are now available online. This is true for smaller counties as well, except in my experience sometimes the systems can be more frustrating, or not go back as far. If your search confuses you, never forget that a phone call can take you a long way. I repeat, a phone call can go a long way. So if you are trying to look something up, and you cannot figure their website out then call the clerk.
Frankly, I recommend focusing your searches on larger counties within your state. For example, if you live in the middle of nowhere Texas, I would still search Houston-Harris County, Texas. This is because of there is such a high volume of cases historically, the money put into their online and clerical resources is greater, and usually the websites are much better.
DO NOT PLAGIARIZE
With any original material, it is imperative you not plagiarize. Use these documents to learn to structure arguments, find cases, structure pleadings, discover unknown sections of pleadings, new arguments, learning what needs to be done to move a suit forward. The possibilities are nearly endless. Use this as an appropriate resource but, please, do not copy any material without properly citing. Better yet, just don’t copy. We are talking about serious potential consequences. Above all, it is most important to involve a lawyer in your legal matters to avoid such problems.
As mentioned above, Mingledorff Law is here to help and advise. Call us at 281-810-9721 for free advice over the phone.
What is the Process of Finding Pleadings And Motions Free Online?
First you will need to go to either the District or County Clerk in State Court. Unfortunately, Federal Court is not a free system, as they use the “Public Access To Court Electronic Records,” or “PACER,” system. (https://www.pacer.gov/findcase.html). So this system may not work as well on Federal cases. *Note* going into federal court without a lawyer is a recipe for absolute disaster. (See above)
Most of these websites require you to create some sort of account to engage with them. Go ahead and create your account and get you research going.
Once on the district or County Clerk’s website, you should create a custom search. You will need to search for cases with issues similar to your own. It is also best to search for cases still currently active, and filed at least a year ago, possibly more. This is because older cases that are still active have substantially more litigation material available that yield a wide variety of pleadings, or legal documents. The further back you go, the better.
You will want to limit your search inquiry to a gap of about a month. Too wide of a search inquiry will yield far too much unwanted material. So search month-to-month. For example: A good search inquiry today, June 2019, would be look for active or open cases that were filed from 01/01/2016 through 02/01/2016.
Lastly, you will want to search for the most contested type of your suit possible. This is because the greater the legal battle that has taken place, the greater the number of documents will have been filed in that lawsuit. Examining a high contest lawsuit will not only yield the document you might be searching, but also
Great examples of high contest lawsuits are Probate Contests, Divorces with children, lawsuits against corporations or large businesses, or large money civil suits such as medical malpractice.
THE KEY above all the key is to find the oldest, most contested, active case that you can that matches your issues.
WALKTHROUGH With Screenshots:
Let’s do two together.
Example 1: Probate Contest: You intend to sue somebody for a will or inheritance you don’t agree with, but you don’t want to hire a lawyer (bad idea). You may think there was foul play in how this will came about. This is called a Probate Contest. To do this you must sue in a Probate Court. These records can be found in County Clerk’s within Texas.
· Start by going to your local (or not local) County clerk’s website.
o I am going to https://www.cclerk.hctx.net/, which is the Harris County, Texas County Clerk Website.
· Go to the probate section and create a search inquiry for probate contest that is still active, but make sure the year filed was at least two years before.
· For today, March of 2020, I enter a search inquiry for an active or open probate contest that was at least two years ago. The key is active or open! Lets say I search active suits filed from January of 2018 to February of 2018.
o Note that probate has “reopened” category which has a high probability of yielding quality documents because the case is clearly being litigated in some way.
o Once your search results are yielded, it is time to dive into all the results. You will have to click dozens; possibly hundreds of cases before you find a document or issue that might be similar to yours.
· Next I am lead to a screen which indicates the Cause number; Style; File date; Court; Type and subtype of Action, and parties.
o This screen has the option of expanding the parties and events to the case. Do this by clicking on the three dots
o Expanding the parties or events can tell you valuable information. Such as if the probate is being contested, there will be multiple parties involved and lots of pleadings. The more complex the lawsuit, the better your research.
§ Examples are: intervener, guardian, contestant, etc.
o You may want to Control+F (find) for a document that possibly is not on this page.
§ For me, I am looking for “Probate of Will”
o Here, I see my very first result actually has a probate contestant. This means the probate is being contested. If there is a contestant, there will be a contest. Thus, there will be a Probate Contest in this case file.
· I then select the case and scroll until I see the “Contest to a Will” document.
· Select “View”
From here, repeat the process and continue searching for as many Contests as possible to compare and learn more until you find what you are seeking. Keep in mind you might not.
Example 2: Divorce with Children You intend to sue your current spouse for a divorce and you want to sole custody of the children. You may wonder want to see an example divorce decree, or temporary order, or motion seeking some sort of relief or action, such as a motion to clarify (This asks the court to explain their ruling on interpretation of terms being debated by parties.)
· Start by going to your local (or not local) County clerk’s website.
o https://www.hcdistrictclerk.com/Edocs/Public/search.aspx?ShowFF=1 which is the Harris County, Texas County Clerk Website.
o You will have to create a free profile on this website. Create one, and log in.
· I will then select ‘Search Our records and Documents”
· As always, we will want an active case that is at least two years old. Again, this is because these cases are voluminous with written pleadings.
· I will then select and modify Case type: to “Divorce with Children”
· I will then select and modify Case Status: to “Active – Civil”
· For today, March of 2020, I enter a search inquiry for suits filed from January of 2018 to February of 2018.
· Next I am lead to a screen which indicates the Cause number; Style; File date; Court; Case Region; and Type of Action.
o Select any of these active cases.
· Once inside the case, you will want to select “images.” This is where all the .PDF court documents filed to this case are located.
o here you will want to review all the pleadings filed and search for something relevant to your issue.
· Select the pleading you want to view by clicking the “Image No”. column.
If your first search does not yield enough information, broaden your search. Do this by increasing the date rang from a one-month gap (January to February of two years ago) to a larger gap. You can also move the date range closer if you are getting very few results.
Please use this as a resource and do not try to litigate without consulting a lawyer. If you want help preparing your legal documents, Mingledorff Law will review your work at no cost, and provide feedback.
Ring Ming 281-497-7180