What is Court Watch?
This substack is a roundup of all the most interesting federal court filings, from search warrants, indictments, to everything in between. The goal is to give the reader direct access to primary source documents.
First some administrative points, Court Watch publishes a weekly newsletter every Friday. When interesting things drop in the court dockets, We’ll occasionally do a breaking news post. And we have been known to dive deep into specific stories and write standalone reporting pieces for this newsletter.
A bit about Court Watch. We have a weird knack for finding the unfindable in the byzantine federal court records system. We have uncovered a sealed indictment which charged Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange which led to international and national coverage. We unearthed a law enforcement investigation into wide-spread public corruption scandal at the L.A. City Council, federal investigations into two sitting members of Congress, a FBI arrest of a Coast Guard officer with white supremacist sympathies and a media hit list, the investigation into a darkweb user who threatened dozens of Jewish Centers in the United States, the public identification of a high-ranking American ISIS member, and the spying on the Walmart CEO’s emails, to name just a few.
In 2022, our chief editor was part of a New York Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting on law enforcement in America.
This is all to say, everyone has hobbies. We just happen to have a particularly esoteric one. Let’s at least put it to good use.
Paid subscribers get full access to past newsletters that go behind a paywall for free subscribers after three weeks. Most importantly, the subscription will help offset the PACER fees, which we can all agree is a racket. Additionally, for a limited time, if you become a founding member, you get an online zoom training by me on how to traverse the federal court system. We’ll work with you to set a time that works best for both of us. For monthly paid subscribers, every quarter We’ll pick a random subscriber to get a free training so hit that subscribe button.
Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is one of the main conduits for accessing federal court records. Unfortunately, it is a labyrinth to navigate. With over 319 million individual case files, a single PACER search could either yield no results or thousands. Through years of experience with the system, we have developed a proven method to traverse the online system and identify new cases before they have become national and international news. The results have been featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Reuters, National Public Radio, NBCNews, ABCNews, CBSNews, CNN, FoxNews, and MSNBC. Additionally, Court Watch’s editor, Seamus Hughes, was part of a New York Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting on law enforcement in America.
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If you would prefer to do a one time payment to support Court Watch, please feel free to Venmo at SeamusHughes
Report for CourtWatch?
Long time readers will recognize a recurring theme, we care deeply about federal court reporting. And quite frankly, we don’t think there’s enough of it. We also believe that there are plenty of unreported local stories that have national importance. So Court Watch seeks to change that. Court Watch commissions freelance pieces from reporters on the topic of federal court proceedings. If that’s you, drop us a note. If you’re a national reporter who has a story that perhaps you knew was a story but your editor passed, we would be interested. Or if you're one of the far-too-many reporters who was let go recently due to media cuts, use us as an opportunity to continue reporting until you find your next gig. Pitch us.
Length: 500-1000 words
Requirement: Fact based, original reporting that is complimented, augmented, or expanded by federal court records. We lean towards exclusive reporting, but can be convinced to commission a piece on a topic that has been reported on previously as long as the pieces has new reporting that advances the story in a meaningful way. Court Watch does not commission opinion pieces at this time.
An example of the types of federal court record reporting we’re interested in.
Rate: $300 dollars a piece.
Send a short pitch and any past reporting examples to here.
Court Watch is not associated with any other for-profit or non-profit programs or initiatives that seek to monitor court proceedings. Though, we welcome any group or organization that seeks to increase transparency in the court system.