If you are an attorney, then I suspect that you already know that PACER is a service that provides online access to U.S. Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy court records and documents for all federal courts in the U.S. If you have ever tried to access PACER while you are on-the-go on your iPhone, then you know that it is not a pleasant experience. You can access the PACER website, but the screen is not formatted for an iPhone screen so the text is tiny and thus hard to read. You can view the docket of a case, but then once you try to view a specific document you often only see the first few pages of the document, and it is impossible to move the document into another app.
I am having trouble finding a link right now, but I have seen in the past a reference to an upcoming version of the PACER website that will work with the iPhone. There is already a version of the PACER case locater that is formatted for mobile devices (you can access it here) and that helps when you are trying to find a case, but then once you find it and you want to get into the details of the case, you run into the same problems that I noted above.
Newton Oldfather, a recent graduate of UCLA Law School, decided to do something about this and thus, with the assistance of his father and another friend, he created the app FedCtRecords. The app usually sells for $19.99 but for a limited time during the holiday season, it is FREE so I encourage you to download it now. [UPDATE 12/31/11: The free promotion is over; the app is now priced at $9.99.] The app does a good job of providing an iPhone interface to the PACER service.
You start by entering your PACER login and password, which the app saves for future use (already an improvement on the website). Then yous select a court from a pop-up list and then enter your query, using any of the traditional PACER fields such as case number, party or attorney.
You wait a few seconds while the app sends the query to PACER, and then you see the PACER results, nicely organized into sections. For example, tap the Attorney section to see a list of attorneys involved in a case. If you tap on a name you get the full information such as the attorney's address and the client represented.
But of course, you will often want to use this app to access the docket, and the app does this well. Tap on Docket Report to see a list every docket entry. Tap on an entry to see the transaction receipt, including information on how much it will cost (if anything) to view the document.
Tap the View button at the top right to view the PDF file. The file will appear on the screen, and you can read it. Unfortunately, the app doesn't include the often-standard iPhone button to open the PDF in another app. (As I've noted in the past, the best apps for reading an a PDF on the iPhone are iBooks and the Adobe Acrobat app.) However, you can tap the EMail button at the top right, and then send the PDF file to yourself as an e-mail attachment, and then once you receive that e-mail you can open up the attached PDF file in whatever app you want.
The app also give you the option to save a case that you located via a query in a My Cases area. That way, in the future, insted of typing the case number you can just tap the case name from a list to quickly pull the PACER information.
Because the iPad can run iPhone apps, you can use this app on an iPad, but the app is not formatted for the iPad screen. Of course, once you find a document and e-mail the PDF to yourself, you may prefer using an iPad so that you can use the larger screen to view the PDF file. Oldfather tells me that if there is sufficient interest in the iPhone app, he would consider creating an iPad version.
[UPDATE: As several have pointed out in the comments, note that this app currently does not access Bankruptcy files.]
Not surprisingly, you cannot use this app to file documents in federal court. For that, you need to use a computer. But if you just want to receive information about a case on PACER, this app works great.
The interface of the FedCtRecords app is not as polished as some other iPhone apps, but that is not really a problem. The app is very functional, and infinitely better than accessing the current PACER website from an iPhone.
If you practice law in federal courts, this is a useful app to have. As noted above, it typically costs $19.99, but during this introductory period during the holiday season it is free, so I encourage you to download it so that you are ready to access PACER the next time that you are away from the office and need to do so on your iPhone.