The proceedings that take place in a court of law are a matter of public record. This means that the public is legally allowed to view the information and details contained in the court record. Divorce proceedings, bankruptcy cases, criminal offenses, lawsuits and custody cases are all examples of records you can obtain. If you need to access the information regarding a particular case, it is easy to do when you know the steps to take.
Determine where the records you require are located. Courts are either local, state, federal or appellate in nature. Local courts include county, city and municipal courts. Find out where the trial you are interested in took place.
Obtain the names of the parties involved and an approximate or exact time frame of when the case took place. The more information you have, the easier your search will be.
Contact the appropriate court. A phone call will determine your next steps. Call the clerk of court's office and ask them how to access records from a case. The clerk of court's office is usually quite helpful.
Access the records in the manner advised by the court. Many courts now make their records available online. The larger the court system, the more likely this is. Oftentimes, accessing records online is no more involved than entering a minimum of information and clicking "Search." Other courts will require you to peruse records in person. If that is the case, take your information to the clerk's office and have them pull the files you need. There should be a table or counter you can use to read the file information.
Be prepared to pay for any copies you want at the courthouse. Copying costs vary from court to court.
Return any files you've used to the clerk when you're done.
- Be aware that some court records are sealed, such as juvenile offenses, and are not open to public scrutiny.
- Use an online records service like LexisNexis, if you do not want to go to the courthouse in person and cannot access records online. There is a charge for this service. You can contact LexisNexis at 888-285-3947.
- courthouse image by Michael Shake from Fotolia.com