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What are Missouri Civil Court Records?
Missouri civil court records refer to reports and documents containing relevant information regarding civil court proceedings within the jurisdiction of the state. They are generated to provide a formal account of civil court hearings and are typically maintained by the office of the clerk of courts in the court where the case was heard. Civil court records may also include documents generated during a civil case as well as motions and judgments documented on paper or recorded electronically. As per Missouri state laws, some of these records may be made available to interested members of the public upon request.
Cases Heard by Missouri Civil Court
Missouri civil courts are charged with hearing cases pertaining to interpersonal disputes as well as various legal actions involving multiple private parties. While criminal cases are generally prosecuted by the state’s office of the district attorney, civil cases are filed by individual complainants typically regarding personal injury or property damage. Cases heard by Missouri civil courts include:
- Breach of contracts resulting in injury and damage
- Negligence and battery
- Libel, slander and other claims/testimonies resulting in defamation of character
- Tort, equitable claims
- Traffic and family-related cases
- Landlord & tenant disputes
- Consumer complaints
- Work-related disputes
The Missouri Civil Court System
The state of Missouri operates a three-tier judicial system comprising over 40 courts of various authorities in different jurisdictions. The courts of Missouri consist of
The Supreme Court of Missouri serves as the state’s highest court while the Missouri Court of Appeals is the state’s intermediate appellate court handling most appeals from lower courts. Below these two tiers, Missouri Circuit courts serve as the state trial courts in which most civil suits are first filed. The state’s circuit courts are also local county courts comprising 7 arms including associate circuit, probate, family, criminal, juvenile, civil and municipal divisions.
Following a civil complaint, the trial court may require the defendant to respond to the allegations preceding the court-mandated pre-trial conference. The pre-trial hearing allows room for negotiation between the alleged offender, the plaintiff, and their respective legal counsels all overseen by a judge. If no favorable resolution is reached at the end of this hearing, the suit is officially taken to trial where the case will be tried by a judge and (in most cases) a jury. Subsequent to this trial, a judgment is delivered based on the evidence presented as well as the legal arguments tendered. Where the plaintiff and/or defendant considers the final judgment unfavorable, they may appeal the judgment at the state’s intermediate appellate court or the Supreme Court of Missouri which is the state’s court of last resort.
What is Included in a Missouri Civil Court Record?
Missouri civil court records are generally designed to contain court case information and legal details of the civil suit. As such, court records are unique to each case and also vary depending on the confidentiality of the case and the record custodian. Regardless of these specificities, most civil court records contain the personal information of the plaintiff and defendant as well as details of the suit filed and any breached agreements. Civil court records typically detail the place and date the original suit was filed, the response of the defendant to the original complaint and proceedings of the pre-trial hearing/conference. Court records may feature details pertaining to the court hearing such as the evidence produced by either party and the trial transcript which includes records of appearances and motion arguments.
Generally, court records also indicate the court's final judgment regarding the suit as well as any financial settlements, alimony, child custody, and child visitation conditions. Many court records also include injunctions and various relief forms including declaratory relief. Where either party disobeys court order or is held in contempt by the judge, they may be ordered to jail following the proceeding. In addition, judgments that are appealed will be indicated as well as details of the appellate court proceedings. Updated verdicts are typically included in the records with every appeal made. Additional information regarding a case such as case schedules, calendars and opinions are usually maintained by the record custodian but may not be included on the record.
Are Missouri Civil Court Records Open to the Public?
Following the establishment of Missouri public records laws in 2006, all administrative and legislative public offices are required to provide access to records deemed public as defined by Mo. Rev. Stat. § 610.010.6(6). As such interested members of the public may inspect and copy records of civil court cases. However, the right of public access to these records is not absolute since any information deemed confidential is restricted persons who meet the required eligibility conditions.
Pursuant to the aforementioned law, records of all court proceedings including motions filed, court actions, details of evidence presented as well as final judgments and/or financial settlements may be obtained by interested persons upon request. However, the following information is excluded from being accessed publicly:
- Confidential information regarding legal actions involving public offices (except for details of the amount paid in settlement)
- Welfare cases and evidence filed by social services and related institutions.
- The personal information of assault victims, juveniles and children in dispute
- Information relating to the financial status of the parties involved as well as their social security numbers, credit card numbers and related access cords
- Records pertaining to nolle pressed charges.
As per Missouri state laws, these records may only be obtained by legally authorized persons such as law enforcement agents and the legal counsel of either party as well as persons who are authorized by a court order/subpoena.
Does Missouri Have a Judiciary Case Search?
The state of Missouri maintains a public Judicial Index Database that serves as a public repository for the state’s judicial records. The database holds case abstracts and files of selected civil suits. With this online resource, interested members of the public including researchers may obtain case information as well as details contained in original microfilmed records and other indexes. In addition to the judicial index database, the state judicial system operates various other online alternatives for retrieving court case information. However, while the information available on these resources can be accessed without permission, the records often exclude sensitive, confidential or sealed information which is typically restricted to eligible persons.
How do I Obtain Civil Court Records In Missouri?
Missouri civil court records may be accessed by interested members of the public using any of the state’s public access resources or third-party alternatives. While most records can be obtained without elaborate protocol, some records require that the requestor meet some eligibility requirements before accessing them. Ultimately, the method of employed record retrieval will depend primarily on the information contained in the record of interest as well as the dissemination conditions indicated in Missouri public record laws. Generally, interested members of the public may view and/or obtain copies of Missouri civil court records by:
- Using the state-operated online databases and search tools
- Making in-person requests to the record custodian
- Sending mail-in requests to the appropriate courthouse.
- Using third-party aggregation sites
Accessing Missouri Civil Court Records In-person
Missouri court record custodians can be queried in-person for access to civil court records. In-person requests are especially recommended for obtaining full case information as some restrictions are placed on the information accessible electronically. To obtain Missouri civil court records in person, requestors are required to:
Locate The Record Custodian
The Missouri superior, appellate and trial courts of Missouri all maintain individual court record repositories of civil cases heard by their respective courthouses. To request a civil court record, interested persons are tasked with locating the jurisdiction where the suit was filed and/or the case was heard. The record custodian is usually the office of the clerk of courts in the trial, appellate or superior court that processed the civil suit. However, the location of a civil court record is primarily dependent on the most current status of the case. Where the case has only recently been filed, it might be in the custody of the jurisdiction’s circuit court, if an appeal is made on the first verdict. However, it is transferred to the appellate or superior court depending on the case.
Making In-person Record Requests
After locating the civil court record custodian, requestors are advised to query the office for detailed information regarding any unique requirements for accessing court records in that jurisdiction. In many cases, the requesting party will also be required to schedule an appointment with the office of the record custodian beforehand.
Most offices provide requestors with a record request form indicating the required information needed to process their requests. These forms may also require that the requestor provide their full personal information, government-issued photo ID and/or a court subpoena (if the record of interest is confidential or sealed).
Providing the Information Required
Most court record custodians require civil court record requestors must provide the information required to facilitate record searches as well as pay a nominal fee to cover the cost of search and copying. Typically, the information required includes the full name of the plaintiff and defendant, the case file number of the record and details of the case filing. In addition, court subpoenas are required to access confidential or sealed information -- these are usually issued by judges to persons who meet the eligibility requirements.
Accessing Missouri Civil Court Record Via Mail
Missouri civil court records can also be obtained by making mail-in queries to the record custodian upon locating the courthouse where the suit was filed. To request court records via mail, the requesting party is required to prepare a written request that will be useful for facilitating record searches. These requests must indicate relevant details of the court case such as the full name of the parties involved in the suit, the case file or docket number of the record as well as the personal information of the requesting party.
Where the record custodian has a record request form, the form can be completed in place of writing a written request. Along with the completed, notarized form or written request, requestors must enclose a government-issued photo ID and may be required to include a self-addressed envelope.
Generally, requestors are advised to contact the courthouse for elaborate information regarding their request procedure and the required prerequisites. In some cases, the requesting party will be charged a nominal search/copy fee which should be included in the request as a cheque or money order payment.
Accessing Missouri Civil Court Records Online
Alternative to requesting civil court records via mail, interested members of the public may view or obtain copies of these records using the publicly-accessible online resources provided by the judicial system of the state. While most jurisdictions operate individual online repositories, which provide access to records unique to their respective jurisdictions, the state maintains various central resource tools with which interested persons can perform state-wide searches for civil court records of cases filed/heard within Missouri state limits.
The online tools available for obtaining civil court case information include:
Otherwise known as access to Missouri court's automated case management system, Case.net provides public access to a variety of civil court case information. With this repository, interested persons can obtain information regarding parties involved in a suit as well as docket entries, judgments, case information as well as trial schedules and court calendars. Following recent updates, case.net may also be used to respond to and pay for traffic tickets.
To obtain civil court case information on the site, the requestor is required to furnish the available tools with the information required to facilitate the search. As such, court records can be searched by case number, filing date, litigant name, trial/hearing schedules and using the judgment index. However, only courts which are active users of the case management software as part of the Missouri Court Automation Program, and civil case records deemed public as provided by the states Revised Statutes are accessible through Case.net.
Missouri Judicial Records
Missouri judicial records are operated by the office of the secretary of state and hold information regarding the Missouri judicial system. The Research Room of the MJR maintains records pooled from the state supreme court, the appellate courts as well as the trial/county court and municipal courts.
To request a record, interested persons are required to register or create an account using the online research request form. Upon obtaining the required login information, the requesting party must provide the required information regarding their record of interest as well as any additional details requested. Requestors are generally charged a minimum of $1 for all copy requests and an additional $0.25 per page for subsequent pages of records from the same file.
Requestors may avoid the additional charges by requesting the records in person. However, advance requests must be made if the records are to be used on non-working days (holidays), Saturdays and Thursday evenings.
Publicly available records are also accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
- Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels
Accessing Sealed Civil Court Records in Missouri
As indicated in Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 211.321, 630.14, some records are not generally open to the public. These include information pertaining to juveniles, trade secret information, financial information and records of mental health evaluations. In many cases, the subject(s) of record may request that the record be sealed or destroyed. However, the courts also have the discretion of seal records where there is a justification for its confidentiality.
To request a sealed record, interested persons are advised to check for and view the court order which deemed the record sealed or confidential. Typically, this order indicates “specific and tangible threats to important values”. Where this is indicated, the requestor may proceed to request a subpoena which will provide them (the requestor) access to the record for a stated period. If the record has been sealed inexplicably, and the court order does not articulate tangible reasons for this restriction, the requestor may challenge the order by moving to strike the record’s confidentiality. In either case, the requestor may require legal assistance.
Other Missouri Civil Court Information Resources
In addition to providing a variety of options for retrieving civil court case record from Missouri courts, the Missouri Court website also features information regarding other legal resources within the Missouri judiciary. Using the website, interested persons can obtain opinions and minutes as well as dockets and oral arguments, court schedules/calendars, and various court forms.
Opinions and Minutes
While a full opinion is considered to be a decision issued by the court regarding a civil case, minutes contain a summary of agreements or dissent to the court-issued opinion. Also included in the minutes are rulings, post-opinion motions, rulings on motions for re-trials and applications for case transfers. The Opinions and Minutes tool allows interested persons to search or view opinions, minutes and decision dates of the supreme court and courts in the eastern, southern and western judicial districts of the state.
Dockets typically contain information regarding cases being appealed at the state appellate courts or the supreme court of Missouri. These are updated daily and indicated on the ‘docket’ for that day. Oral arguments are provided by the legal counsels of both the plaintiff/defendant after which the case is formally presented for hearing. Oral arguments are typically in audio format but may also be in written form in cases where the parties submit briefs as an alternative to arguing.
The Missouri state judiciary provides a variety of electronic forms that can be used in courts across the state. The available forms are downloadable and fillable using basic PDF software. However, some jurisdictions have unique requirements for making specific requests and as such, users are advised to contact the local court clerk office regarding any procedures or deposits/charges.
Civil Court Records in Missouri Judicial Districts
Most civil cases begin in one of Missouri’s 46 judicial districts were the circuit courts have jurisdiction. As such, civil court records are generally managed by the division of the circuit court where the suit was filed/heard. Given that they are operated independently, persons seeking civil court records from any of the courts will be required to meet any requirements unique to the jurisdiction.
In order to provide public access to court-specific information, the Missouri courts website includes a Find a Court search feature. Using the tool, interested persons may find courts/judicial personnel as well as updated information regarding the services available in each courthouse. To find a court, users must furnish the tool with a city name, zip code or county/court name.
Are there Public Records of Alternative Dispute Resolutions in Missouri?
Where possible, civil suits in Missouri are recommended for dispute resolution alternatives as a substitute for the court trial. ADR utilizes civil resolution options such as mediation, neutral evaluation, and/or arbitration in finding suitable resolutions to civil disputes. They are regarded as the cheaper and confidential alternative to regular litigation processes. Given that ADR is often opted for based on the confidentiality afforded by the parties, there are rarely public records of ADR processes unless released by the parties involved. Mediators, arbitrators and other third-party legal professionals present during mediation are often required to notarize non-disclosure agreements guaranteeing that the details of the mediation are not discussed or referenced without adequate permissions from the plaintiff/defendant. Notwithstanding, ADR processes are usually documented and may be subpoenaed if they become relevant for legal purposes.