Many courts now offer online access to case indexes. Once you locate a case involving the subject of your inquiry, you need to determine if the case file is still available at the court. Not all court case files are kept at the court clerk's office. Each court has a schedule it follows to retire older case files to an archive. In some instances the files for minor cases are destroyed. The clerk of the court will be able to tell you if a case file has been archived. In some archives the original case file number is also used to locate the file.
Federal court case files are stored in one of the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) nationwide network of 17 facilities. In federal record centers the case file is found by case number, box number, and box location. This information is obtained from the clerk of the bankruptcy or district court where the case was tried. To request a case file from a record center you will need to use the NATF Form 90 for bankruptcy cases, Form 91 for civil cases, and a Form 92 for criminal cases. These forms can be found as a PDF on each record center's web page.
Most local courts store old case files onsite or destroy them after a number of years. State courts often send old case files to their state archive. A useful directory of state archive centers can be found at the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators web page. Instructions for obtaining case files can be found on most state archive web pages. The staff at the state archive can also provide you with the information you need to order copies. Do to limited staff and request backlogs, it may take as many as six to eight weeks to get a response from an archive. In the event you need records sooner, you will need to send a researcher to the archives to make a request in person. Finding a researcher near the archives can be difficult. Consider hiring a professional genealogist. They are at the archives often and are very familiar with the procedures for obtaining records. To locate a professional genealogist search the Association of Professional Genealogists web page.