Missouri Court Records Search
Missouri court records are documents pertaining to court cases or legal proceedings conducted within state limits. They generally include dockets, evidence, filings or petitions, information about the parties and attorneys involved, court orders, and dispositions. Pursuant to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, the public is entitled access to court records from the record custodian unless otherwise specified by law or court order. Missouri court record search options include online databases and in-person searches at courthouses where cases are filed. Court records help track case progress, obtain pertinent information about a case, and can be critical for background checks.
Are Missouri Court Records Public?
The State of Missouri has two statutes that govern its release of records to members of the public. The first is the Missouri Public Records Law, enacted in 1961 to grant transparency to the government and its agencies' activities. It is strict and has lots of limitations regarding the records accessible to the general public.
In reaction to President Richard Nixon's Watergate Scandal, a second Freedom of Information Law, otherwise known as Missouri's Sunshine Law, was enacted in 1973. The Sunshine Law, as captured in Chapter 610 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, makes public all written or electronic records, actions, deliberations, and votes of every government body in the State of Missouri.
Under this law, public access to records may still be denied, but only to the degree dictated by state statute. Technically, every record captured in the Missouri Public Records Law is also accessible through the Missouri Sunshine Law. However, the Public Records Law has not suffered repeal because certain clauses in the Sunshine Law may explicitly exempt access from certain government records. Still, such records may be deemed accessible in the Public Record Law.
As such, both laws are complementary and have, thus, remained relevant. Pursuant to § 610.010(4) of the Sunshine Law, Missouri court records are public records that interested members of the public can access. However, Mo.Rev.Stat. § 211.321 posits that Juvenile Court records, social records, and all information obtained for the execution of courts' official duties are not subject to access and inspection by the general public, except through a court order.
How Do I Find Court Records in Missouri?
The first step when trying to obtain court records in Missouri is to identify the court where the case was heard or tried. Typically, Court Clerks are custodians of court records in Missouri. Once the court is identified, requesters may obtain the necessary contact information, such as a physical address, mailing address, phone number, and email, from the Missouri Courts Online Directory. Requesters can search this directory by providing the county's name where the court is located or the court's city name and zip code.
Missouri Court Records Public Access
The Missouri judicial system provides in-person and remote access to court case information generated within its courts. With the right contact information, interested persons may obtain court records in person, electronically, or by mail.
For in-person requests, visit the courthouse and obtain the appropriate request form from the Clerk of the Court. The clerk may charge requestors certain fees for preparing copies of the record requested.
Some courts allow mail-in requests. Requesters may confirm by contacting the Clerk of the Court through the Missouri Courts Online Directory's information. For online requests, use the state’s court record online portal, which provides public access to court records deemed non-confidential. The portal allows requesters to search for records using any of the following:
- Filing date search
- Litigant name search or party name search
- Scheduled hearings and trials search
- Case number search
- Judgment index
Each search option requires the requestor to provide relevant and specific details on the case under consideration. The search results bear headings:
- Case header: This is a general overview of the case, which contains the filing date, case type, case number, disposition status, and the court where the case was heard.
- Parties and attorneys: As the heading suggests, it captures all the parties to the case and their respective attorneys.
- Docket entries: This is a summary of the case, including exhibits, motions, subpoenas, summons, notices, etc.
Searching for case information via the portal is free. However, concerned persons may use the service to pay for filing fees and other necessary court payments.
How to Conduct a Missouri Court Records Search by Name
Interested persons may perform a court records search on the state’s official judicial record portal with the litigant's name. Besides a name search, requestors may use the following parameters to refine the search results while looking up court records:
- Name of Court involved
- Business name
- First name
- Middle name
- Case type
- Year of filing
- Case status
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
Most counties offer public internet access to court documents via their websites or by visiting a court location to see these data using the office computers at the courthouse. Although access to court documents on public terminals is free and open to the public, requestors must pay for copying costs where they require a physical copy of a case file.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, court records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
What are Missouri Judgment Records?
Missouri judgment records are court documents containing the court's decision on a case in its jurisdiction, usually following the examination of case facts or a trial. The clerk of courts creates judgment records following this decision and stores them along with other court documents relevant to the case.
The Missouri Sunshine Law makes these records open to interested members of the public. To obtain judgment records in Missouri, a requester must know the case number and litigants' names and be prepared to pay the associated court fees. Armed with this information, visit the clerk's office during business hours. Once there, submit a request for the court record, providing the case number and the litigants' names. Knowing the presiding judge's name and the judgment year can also help expedite the search.
Upon retrieving the judgment records sought, the requester may obtain regular or certified copies. Besides visiting the clerk's office for judgment records, interested persons may also order the court documents on the court's website. However, this option is only available if the court maintains an online repository for case documents. Persons who obtain Missouri judgment records can expect to see the litigants' names, the judge's name, and the judgment issued.
What are Missouri Bankruptcy Records?
Missouri bankruptcy records provide financial information on people and companies that have filed for bankruptcy relief. Once filed, these records are maintained by federal courts and become available to the public. Interested parties can obtain copies of a record by submitting a request to the clerk in charge of the records. Requesters may also access copies by registering an account with the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) System.
In Missouri, interested and eligible members of the public view or copy records of bankruptcy proceedings and writs, judgments, Missouri liens, and foreclosures. These records are typically held in the judicial district where the petition or claim was originally filed. However, requestors will be required to provide the information required to facilitate the search and cover the cost of research and duplication of the record.
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in Missouri
Missouri bankruptcy records are accessible to the public per the Missouri Public Records Law and the Freedom of Information Act. Thus, all records would be made public, except for case records restricted by legislation or sealed by court order.
To find court records, visit the courthouse where the case was filed or heard and submit a request for bankruptcy records. Bankruptcy court records are also accessible to the public through the Public Access to Electronic Court Records (PACER) web service for $0.10 per page. Requesters are required to provide information to facilitate the search for the records sought. These include the case number, filing date, filing jurisdiction, the petitioner's name, or creditor's name.
Types of Courts in Missouri
The Missouri court system comprises three levels: the Trial Courts (also known as circuit courts), the Missouri Court of Appeals, the intermediate appellate court with three divisions (Eastern, Western, and Southern), and the Missouri Supreme Court.
- The Supreme Court serves as the final arbiter of issues affecting the state's constitution and laws, and as such, it has the authority to establish a stable and predictable system of justice.
- The intermediate appellate court is the Missouri Court of Appeals. The great majority of appeals from the circuit courts are handled by it.
- Cases in Missouri commence at the county courts, sometimes called circuit courts. Several sections exist within these trial courts, including associate circuit, civil and criminal, family, juvenile, municipal, and probate courts.
Can You Look Up Court Cases in Missouri?
Yes, individuals may look up court cases in Missouri. Ordinarily, individuals may visit the office of a Court Clerk for information on cases. Each court in Missouri has several procedures for this. However, most in-person requests have been suspended due to COVID-19. Individuals may still search court cases using the state’s judicial record website. Court records, including case number, current case status, filing date, etc., are available on the database. The website is usually open from Monday through Friday, 6.AM. to 1.AM. Requestors are expected to read court-specific notices to determine the status of a particular proceeding.
Missouri Court Case Lookup Exemptions
Per Missouri's Sunshine laws, the following records and documents containing sensitive information are not available to the public:
- Any legal proceedings, claims, or disputes involving a governmental entity, as well as any privileged or private communications between a governmental entity or its representatives and attorneys.
- The diagnosis or treatment of alcoholism or drug dependency, as well as non-judicial mental or physical health procedures involving identifiable individuals in the medical, psychiatric, or psychological fields.
- Welfare situations involving identifiable people.
- Specifications for competitive bidding, up until the specifications are either published for bids or officially approved by a public government entity.
- Sealed proposals and related documents, as well as any other documents pertaining to a negotiated contract, until a contract is executed or all proposals are rejected. Sealed bids and accompanying documents until the bids are opened.
- Records pertaining to the placement of children in foster care under section in foster homes or with relatives.
Only specific persons, such as case parties, attorneys, court-appointed individuals, or government representatives/individuals with court decree, may be permitted access to these records.
What is a Court Docket in Missouri?
A Missouri court docket is the official record of a court proceeding in a Missouri court. It includes details about the parties involved, their attorneys, and any witnesses, as well as information about hearings, motions, orders, and verdicts. A court clerk or other staff member often keeps track of the dockets, which are open to the public's scrutiny at any time during regular business hours. These can be used to keep track of upcoming court dates and deadlines, which is crucial for people advocating for themselves in court.
In Missouri, court dockets are accessible at the locations where cases have been filed, and interested parties can visit the relevant courthouse for such information online or in person. For instance, on the official website of the state judiciary in Missouri, the Eastern, Western, and Southern District Courts of Appeals provide full docket lists that interested parties can access.
What are Civil Court and Small Claims in Missouri?
Civil cases are non-criminal cases in which a Plaintiff seeks compensation or monetary damage from a Defendant. Generally, Civil cases are heard in Missouri Trial Courts. Cases with less than $25,000 in dispute are filled in the Associate Circuit Civil Court. In comparison, more than $25,000 in dispute cases are filed in the Circuit Court. Civil cases that involve non-monetary claims, such as restriction orders, are generally filed in the Circuit Court. Most civil cases require a filing fee to be paid by the Plaintiff.
Missouri Small Claims Courts are a division of the Circuit Courts. The division offers a simple procedure for claims less than $3,000, minus interest and cost. However, the Small Claims Court allows defendants to submit a counterclaim above $3,000. Missouri Court structure permits part or all of the matters of small claims to be transferred to another court division. Parties often appear in Small Claims Court without an Attorney.