There are two types of court records -- federal and state.
Court records are official reports of transactions, judgments, or other legal proceedings maintained by courts of law. The United States court system consists of two types of courts -- federal courts and state courts.
Persons wishing to search federal court records can use Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). The PACER system is available to anyone who has access to a computer. There is a nominal fee to use this system based on the results generated. The PACER system can be used to view court records from federal appellate, bankruptcy and district courts.
Public availability of court records varies from state to state. Each state determines the type of court record (i.e., district and/or civic court records), the type of information found in each record, and what specific information to make available to the public. Persons looking for state court records are advised to contact the judicial branch of a particular state. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) offers a Web page that contains information regarding all the state courts.
One option for persons searching for court records is to directly access the courthouse. This can be done via a visit in person, over the phone or in a letter. A second option is to visit a law library for a particular state. Court cases may be available to view on microfilm or as computerized information. Local libraries near the court of interest may have a collection of government documents available. The library may also be in possession of an online database, such as LegalTrac, that may direct the user of a particular court record toward additional information.
The Internet is also used to search for court records. A number of websites are available to search court records. Many of these websites are able to search numerous databases of records that are not necessarily available to the public, as well as those that are. One such website is Search Systems.net. This website is subscription-based, but offers the ability to search court records in all states. Information can be found from the highest-level court to the lowest level.
Courtrecords.org is another valuable website. This website provides information regarding court documents including civil or criminal activity, property ownership, and marriage/divorce activity. The site also allows individuals to search for court records by state. A preliminary search is free, but a more in-depth search requires a fee.
Court record retrieving websites typically do not guarantee the information they retrieve to be accurate. Many of them take the records on an as-is basis, and as such, may contain incorrect data. Some websites only retrieve parts of court records and not the record in its entirety.
When searching for court records in person by visiting a courthouse, or phoning or mailing for information, it is possible you will find that the records were destroyed over time and thus are not available.