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This guide contains information about American and international governments and elections.

About Election Court Cases

Fact-checking Court Documents

Searching for court documents if you are not a lawyer or legal professional can be challenging, especially if you do not know the case number, docket number, or date of filing. In addition, the names of the plaintiff and defendant are not always the most intuitive. For example, a lawsuit that is discussed in the media might talk about a person in a court case, but the actual name in the court documents is the company the person is the CEO of. 

Another challenge is that while most court filings are public information, some databases charge a small fee for each search like PACER does. Typically the fees are very small, .10 per page and if you use the services minimally, the fees will be waived. Still, the small fees can be a barrier. 

The fastest and easiest way to find court information if you are not a legal professional, and at least know the state the court proceeding is held and if it is a federal or state court case, you can go to the official state government website, locate the court systems website, and search within the site.

Here is an example from the 2020 election. 

  • Let's say you find an article on about the latest Trump lawsuit. You want to check and see if what the article quotes is what the judge actually wrote. The article says that the case was in Pennsylvania and the litigation occurred in Pennsylvania Federal Court. 

A screenshot of an article from ABC News with the headline, "Federal judge rejects Trump campaign's Pa. lawsuit with prejudice, saying it lacks factual proof."

A screenshot of the article highlighting the clues to help researchers find the correct website.

  • We can find the official government information website of Pennsylvania from (See this tutorial on how to do that if you are not sure how to.) We can also use Google to find the website a bit quicker. (Don't worry, this is one example of how using Google is can be helpful in research and fact-checking.)
  • Go Google and use the search term 'Pennsylvania Federal Courts.'

A screenshot of using the search terms 'Pennsylvania Federal Courts.'

  • Usually, for this type of search, the first or second search result will be the correct one. But in this example, both appear to be the correct one. How do we know which court is the correct one?

A screenshot highlighting the Google search results of Pennsylvania Federal Courts that seem most likely to be the one needed.

  • Sometimes research is a bit of trial and error, and the article does not say which Pennsylvania federal court was in question. So try the first one.

A screenshot of the US District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania homepage highlighting links that is the right court to find PA court information about the 2020 Presidential Election

Screenshot of the latest court opinions from the PA Middle District Federal Court.

  • We know in the article that the date of the opinion is November 21, 2020, so the highlighted entry is likely to be the one needed for this fact-checking example. We also know that the judge who wrote the opinion, which is U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann. ABC News quoted the judge as writing: 

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann wrote that he would not "disenfranchise almost seven million voters," as the Trump campaign had sought.

"One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption," Brann wrote. "That has not happened."

  • When the file is opened, we can immediately see that the Judge who authored the document is indeed Judge Brann. On pages one and two of the opinion, we can find the quotes cited in the article. Therefore, the article found on ABC news website is correct in the quotes and sentiment of the opinion. To read the full document click here

A screenshot of the PA court document highlighting the judge's name.

A screenshot of the quotes referenced in the article which confirm the veracity of the artily.


  • One other piece of information we find out from this fact-checking example is the court case numbers. This can be useful should we want to find additional court documents related to this particular case. The numbers are highlighted in the graphic below. 

A screenshot of the court document referenced above, highlighting the court case numbers which can be helpful for additional research on this case.