The search site Court Listener was created by a masters student at the Berkeley School of Information, with the goal of creating a free and competitive real-time alert tool for the U.S. judicial system.  Right now, the site has daily information on all precedential opinions issued by the 13 federal circuits and the Supreme Court – by 5:10pm PST, the database is updated with all opinions from that day.

To use the site, just enter some search terms – you may be looking for a certain opinion, or doing more advanced research on a particular topic.  You’ll see a list of cases in the results, and when you click on one you can do several things, in addition to reading the opinion.  You can share the opinion by email, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, or Delicious.  You can also view both the original opinion from the court, as well as the backup, if the original is no available.

You can also set an alert for your search, to send you an email daily, weekly or monthly with new search results – or to alert you that there are no new hits.

If you have a lot of time on your hands, you might check out the Browse feature, which provides a chronological listing of all opinions from all courts, including Customs & Patent Appeals, the Court of Federal Claims, and the Emergency Court of Appeals.  If you’re really into the data, they have also created XML dumps of court data, sliced and diced just about any way you want it.

There are other tools like this out there, but Court Listener is a clean, easy-to-use alternative that’s definitely worth checking out.