How to Get Court Transcripts for Free in 2022 | Ultimate Guide

Michael Chen
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May 8, 2022
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6
mins

Contents

What Are Court Transcripts?What is Included in Court Transcripts?Who Can Obtain Court Transcripts?How to Get Court TranscriptsHow to Access Public Court Records OnlineHow to Find Court Records On a PersonHow to Get Court Transcripts Online For FreeFAQsConclusion

If you’re researching a legal case, it’s important to have a copy of the transcript. Transcripts are official records of the testimony and evidence presented in a trial. 

You can use transcripts to gain a deeper understanding of the events leading up to and during the trial. Also, how the court reached the verdict.

You can view transcripts for free by visiting the courthouse where the trial took place. They will have computers that the public can use to access court records.

What Are Court Transcripts?

Court transcripts are a written record of what occurred in court. It includes all of the dialogue in front of the judge and jury. You can use your court transcript to prove that you were part of a trial, or you can use it as part of an appeal process.

The length of the court transcript depends on how long the case lasted. Homicide trials can last several days. Divorce proceedings may only take 30 minutes. Transcripts aren’t normally released until after all appeals are complete.

This can take from the same day to up to two years after the case reaches its verdict.

What is Included in Court Transcripts?

Court transcripts include a record of all court proceedings from start to finish. These include all motions, evidence, testimonies, and rulings.

While some cases will have an official record made by court reporters, many do not. Certain court transcripts can only be requested by certain parties. We’ll get into those later.

Court records are public documents and can be requested by anyone. Even if you aren’t involved in a case or legal proceeding. This means you could request transcripts of trials you didn't attend.

Even ones that happened before you were born! You just need to know where to look and how to get them.

Who Can Obtain Court Transcripts?

Most courts allow both parties of a case to get court transcripts if necessary. A few states and local courts only allow one party at a time to obtain copies of transcripts.

There may be certain costs associated with receiving copies of these documents. Depending on where you live, the cost can fluctuate. Furthermore, some courts may charge a small fee; others will provide them without cost.

If you’re unsure about how much it costs to get transcripts from the local court, contact your local clerk’s office. Ask what fees are associated with obtaining copies of court transcripts.

How to Get Court Transcripts

There are many ways that you can get them. You can either get one from an online provider or through your county’s clerk of court office.  

It's important to know where and how to get them. With these five tips, you will be able to get transcripts quickly and easily. Let's take a look at how: 

Inquire With Your Local Clerk of Court Office

These days, most clerks offer transcript services online as well as over-the-phone requests. You can contact your local clerk’s office to inquire about their process or fees.

If your county offers an online service, then it’s likely you’ll need only provide some basic information. You'll just need the case number and date. Online ordering systems typically allow you to request a trial, hearing, or deposition.

You may also be able to access these documents from your court system's website.

Search databases on Google

Another great way to get free court records is through a Google search! Not all courts keep detailed records online but some do post certain transcripts at no cost. You just have to know where to look!

If looking for a transcript from a California case, search " California Court Records". Try "California Case Index" instead of "court records".

You can use other words related to what you are looking for searching for cases by name.

Contact an attorney who handled the case

Consider contacting an attorney who handled the case directly. They will often have access to your full file. This will include any transcripts associated with it.

Attorneys will typically provide copies of these documents for a fee. Make sure you ask about costs before making any requests. 

Request them from your local law library 

Many law libraries now offer their own transcription services. They will produce copies of court cases and legal decisions within their jurisdiction. 

However, there may be a small fee involved so make sure to check first before requesting copies.

A law library will have everything available electronically. This means less time spent digging around in files trying to find what you need! 

On-Demand Court Records

Even if you’re not a lawyer, it’s worth knowing that courts usually make case documents available on request. Certain court documents are searchable and accessible through databases. 

Federal courts use Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF). Most federal courts also provide remote access to some or all of their CM/ECF content via PACER.

How to Access Public Court Records Online

PACER is an online database that provides access to electronic court records. Unfortunately, it isn’t free to use remotely. If you access PACER from a computer at a courthouse it’s free. Only the cases that were held at the courthouse you’re in will be free.

Depending on what you are looking for, charges can range from 10 cents per page to $2.40 for an audio file. It’s a huge amount of money if you are just researching or checking out some basic information about a case.

How to Find Court Records On a Person

Court records can be accessed online, in person, or over the phone. If you’re looking for court records on a person, contact the courthouse directly.

Each courthouse has different procedures regarding record searches. Many are happy to assist members of the public who wish to retrieve public court records.

Some courts will share these documents with members of law enforcement or attorneys. They may not provide them freely. 

As such, it’s best not to rely on access through a courthouse as your only option if you need to find court records online. Try searching at one of these sites first:

How to Get Court Transcripts Online For Free

Unfortunately, there's no big database to look up every court transcript for free. You may be too far from the physical court to go there in person. If you really want to see a transcript for free you'll have to do some digging.

It's also possible that you'll spend hours looking for a free transcript and never find it. Here are a few sites that will allow you to view select court transcripts for free.

Supreme Court of the United States - Argument Transcripts

The Supreme Court makes transcripts of its oral arguments free and available online. They are uploaded on the same day that arguments are heard. They are published by the Heritage Reporting Corporation, a private contractor. 

They’re sorted by each year a case was heard and are in PDF format, meaning they’re text-searchable, just like an e-book. They provide a helpful way to review a case from start to finish.

Mayer Brown Cases

If you’re looking for how to get court transcripts for free, Mayer Brown Cases is a great place to start. This website is a clearinghouse of oral arguments from this top law firm. It has one of the largest collections of audio files available on the web. 

Just don’t expect videos or transcripts—there are no visuals or captions here. There are audio files that you can download and transcribe with Notta if you need a text version.

California Courts Oral Argument Webcasts

California's Supreme Court started broadcasting its oral arguments in 2016. Users can also get transcripts of each argument from California Courts Online. You can also call the local court and request a copy. 

Most states have some kind of freely accessible court transcripts. Procedures vary widely. Check a particular state's website to see what types of transcripts are available.

California Courts Oral Argument Audio

The California Courts also provide audio webcasts of the Supreme Court Oral Arguments. These are held in San Francisco, as well as many of the Appeals cases heard in the state. They are free to listen to and download. 

The Supreme Court cases are live at 9 am and the dates of each case will be posted before they go live. You can also download these cases and upload them to Notta to transcribe them into a text version.

9th Circuit Oral Arguments

The Ninth Circuit hears cases in three-judge panels. These panels have multiple judges listening to each side. The lawyers argue and then debate each other in front of a panel(or en banc, meaning all the judges in a conference room). 

Oral arguments from the court are available on the Ninth Circuit website. They will be under their Oral Arguments section. These oral arguments are recorded and made available as audio or video files.

These files can then be downloaded and imported into Notta for a full transcription.

Cameras in Courts

This website has expanded over time. It annexes footage from a limited number of cases from select districts. It's up to you how deep you dig into each court's archives. By browsing through one of these cases, you'll be able to see how trials play out in different areas of law.

FAQs

How to Get Court Transcripts Online

Most court transcripts are available through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). This platform lets you search and download most court documents. It includes many civil cases all the way up to federal appeals.

How to Get Family Court Transcripts For Free

Go to the court the case was held at and you will be able to view the transcript for free. You won’t have to pay to view the transcript on the computer, the courthouse will likely charge you a fee to get a copy of it.

Can Anyone Get a Copy of Court Transcripts?

Anyone can get a copy of court transcripts, but the judge has the final say over what is made public. It’s unlikely that you'll get access to sealed documents. If the judge has made the transcript public, you can request a copy from the court.

How to Get Court Transcripts in California

In California, you can visit the courthouse in person. Use their computers to get transcripts. Be sure to have your case number handy so that you can enter it during the search process.

Conclusion

Use these tips to find court transcripts for free. They can help you be more informed about a court case you're researching. Sometimes the transcripts you find will be audio-only. You could use an app like Notta to transcribe the audio text for review. 

Notta is a premier voice recorder and voice-to-text application. You can even send Notta to a virtual court session and it will transcribe the entire court session for you.

Michael Chen

Michael is the head of growth at Notta and has a ton of professional hands-on experience in the technology field. He likes writing and experience cool stuffs, if you don't see him in the office discussing the most popular apps with colleagues, then he must be creating in the cafe.

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