Help for obtaining Online Opinions (Database)
(You will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the .pdf files)
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.

Search Context
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 last five 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 because 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 cases).

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 example, 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 years.

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.

Opinion Type
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:

  • 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
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).