How to search the 11th Circuit Opinions Database
Searching the opinions database, which features opinions issued
since 1994, offers numerous search options. If you open the Opinions
Database search page, you will notice a total of three search
fields. Search by Keyword, Search by Case or Docket Number, and
Search by Date.
Partial search criteria
Each of these fields allows the user to search using either partial or whole search criteria, and will bring back
the fewest possible results.
Searching with partial keywords, or case numbers, or even dates is allowable, although the more information entered,
the more accurate the search results will be. For example, if you are unsure of a case number but know it starts with 02-13, you may search
in the case number field (or the keyword field) using that small amount of information, and receive all cases with that combination
of numbers in the database information. The same applies to month, day and year. If you are unsure of the day an opinion was issued, but know
it was in the month of June, searching by only month (or day, or year) will produce accurate results.
Unlike some search forms you may be familiar with, it is not
necessary to use quotation marks ("") when searching with these
forms. Using full phrases is allowed, although placing them within
quotes will cause a return of 0 results.
The use of Boolean expressions (AND, OR, NOT) is not necessary in this particular search form. Use of such terms will
confuse the database and return 0 results. The reason for this is that you are searching specific data in a database
that does not include those terms (except for when part of the actual data). This is not an indexed search, like the archived opinions. The benefits of this
are that searches provide more specific results with less information, and results can be formatted to provide the most commonly requested information, as well
as direct links to .PDF files.
Criteria stored in the database
The criteria that are stored in the database (searchable data)
are as follows:
- Case Number (in the format of XX-XXXXX)
- DC DKT Number (Docket Number) (for example: 98-00302-CRT-25Z)
- .PDF file name (for example: 200213265.pdf) Providing a direct link to the .PDF file
- Date of Issuance, by Month, Day and Year (each separately searchable)
- Description (Short Case Name) - Each word in description qualifies as a keyword
- Opinion Type
Search by Case Number
Eleventh Circuit Opinions are each given a case number. The case number is a 7-digit number with a hyphen following the first two numbers that
signifies not only the case, but also the year that a case is/was initiated.
For example, if a case number is
02-03237, the year of initiation was 2002 and the case number
is 03237. It is possible for there to be two cases with the same
digits; but it is NOT possible for there to be two cases with
the same SEVEN digits. Any portion of the case number
is searchable, but failure to include the hyphen if searching
past the first two numbers will cause a failure in result retrieval.
Additionally, it is possible for an opinion to have more than one case number
of a relationship between two cases, and both
case numbers should be listed in the database. Searching either
case number involved with an opinion should return the same results.
(You may also attempt to search using both case numbers, but they may be
listed separated by a comma, OR by an ampersand (&), so trying both possibilities
if using both numbers is recommended.)
Search by Docket Number
All district court and agency cases have a "Docket Number" which is unique to each
individual case. The numbers indicate numerous things about each
particular case, and can be very helpful in locating case information.
A docket number
may have up to 13 letters and numbers,
and will include numerous hyphens. Some docket numbers are shorter,
and some cases have more than one docket number (i.e., tax
If you have attempted to search using the docket number, and you are not getting any results, try searching with a portion of
the docket number, which exists between hyphens. Occasionally, a hyphen may not have appeared on the .PDF file, which means it
may not be in the database either. For example, perhaps you are SURE that the docket number you seek is 01-01953-CV-UUB, but you are not
able to get results typing that in exactly. Try typing 01-01953 instead. This should alleviate the difficulty.
Search by .PDF file name
If you know the case number associated with an opinion, you can
usually search by the .PDF file name. Each opinion .PDF file
is named based on the case number, minus the hyphen, and including
the ENTIRE year. For
if the case number is 02-12345, then the .PDF file name would
be 200212345.pdf. There will be times, however, that a .PDF file
has additional information in the file name. This, however, will
not affect your ability
to search using the numbers found
in the file name. Keep in mind, though, that if the file is actually
named 200212345op2.pdf (in the case of a re-issuance), searching
for 200212345.pdf will not produce the desired results. To keep
this from becoming an issue, it is recommended that the .PDF file
extension be omitted from searching when using the file
name as the primary search criterion.
Search by Date of Issuance
If you wish to search by date of Opinion Issuance, your options
are fairly broad. You may either search by month, day, or year,
or you may also combine any or all of the three options to search
for a specific lot of opinions. If you only know that the opinion
you seek was issued in June, searching by month only will
produce all opinions
issued that month (for numerous years, if you do not select a
year as well). If you only know the opinion you seek was issued
on July 15, but are unsure
what year, entering those two criteria will
provide all opinions issued on July 15th, possibly for numerous
If you wish to view all opinions issued on one specific date,
insert the date in YYYY-MM-DD format and hit the search button.
All date searches must be in numeric form, i.e., if you are searching for the month of April, use 04-. To search for opinions issued on April 10, use 04-10.
Searching by using JUST the 04 will return all opinions released in the MONTH of 04, DAY of 04, or YEAR of 04. Inserting a dash after or
before the number will distinguish whether you seek the month of 04 or the day.
Search by Case Name
Each case heard by the Eleventh Circuit has a "Case Name" or "Description" that
defines the parties in the case, and their role in the case.
You may search for keywords in the description by using the
database. Keep in mind however,
that some opinions
may have less information in the description than others, so
this may not always be the most effective method of searching.
However, if you are quite sure that John Smith was a primary
party in the case, you
should have no problem looking the case up under Smith, or John,
or even John Smith.
Searching by opinion type is one of the less specific ways of searching for opinions in the database. Despite the
lack of specificity, it is a good way to list opinions if you know you are looking for an En Banc opinion, or a Remand, etc.
There are twelve different Opinion Types that are listed in the database. Those are:
NOTE: This opinion "TYPE" refers only to the type listed on the database output result pages. It does
not refer to anything referenced in the actual file name, or file extension. For example, an opinion file named 200312345.MAN.pdf is not
of type MAN. You must refer to the Daily Log or a search result to determine the type of Opinion it is. Generally, opinion file names
that include the additional "MAN," "OPN" etc., are of the type ARC (archive).
NEW - signifies a new opinion
ORD - signifies a court order
ENB - signifies an en banc opinion
REH - signifies a rehearing opinion
- VAC - signifies a vacated opinion
- WDN - signifies a withdrawn opinion
- SUB - signifies a substituted opinion
- CON - signifies a consolidated opinion
ONP - signifies an originally NON-PUBLISHED opinion
REM - signifies a remand from the supreme court
CER - signifies a certified question to state supreme court
ARC - published opinions issued BEFORE March 2003