Minnesota Civil Court Records
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What are Minnesota Civil Court Records?
Minnesota Civil Court records are official court documents that provide details of the proceedings of civil lawsuits heard in state courts. Most of these records are case files including such documents as witness statements, exhibit and evidence lists, court transcripts, jury information, and final judgements. Besides case files, Civil Court records also include dockets, orders, motions, affidavits, complaints, statements, and court calendars. Most Civil Court records in Minnesota are also public records except for those sealed by court order or state/federal statutes. Interested members of the public may find Minnesota civil court records in the jurisdiction where the case was heard.
Understanding the Minnesota Civil Court Structure
Most civil cases in Minnesota are heard at District Courts. There are 10 Judicial Districts in the state. These are trial courts with general jurisdiction. Minnesota District Courts also hear appeals from its Conciliation Courts. Also known as Small Claims Court, this is a lower division of the District Court that handles civil suits involving claims of $15,000 or less.
Civil case appeals are heard at Minnesota Court of Appeals. Appeals of specific civil suits bypass this court and go directly to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the highest state court and it reviews the decisions of the state’s Tax Court and appeals from the Workers’ Compensation Court.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records in Minnesota?
There are two ways to access the records of Minnesota Civil Courts. Members of the public can either view these records:
- Online from the website of the Minnesota Judicial Branch
- In person at the various District Courts in the state
To access Minnesota Civil Court records online, visit the Minnesota Public Access (MPA) Remote portal. This is the public-facing search tool of the Minnesota Court Information System. It provides access to case information for court records that are available to the public. Choose a county from the drop-down list of Minnesota counties and click the link to Civil, Family, and Probate Case Records.
For civil case appeals heard in Minnesota’s Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, visit the Minnesota Appellate Court Case Management System website. Select Civil from the Case Type menu and narrow your search by providing a case number, case title, and/or jurisdiction.
Every District Court in Minnesota has remote access terminals for the public to access court records. These systems provide more detailed Civil Court records than the online systems described above. It is also possible to view paper copies of civil cases at District courthouses. Visit the court’s records center or contact the clerk’s office to ask about viewing these records in person.
Are All Minnesota Civil Court Records Available to the Public?
No. However, most of them are public records. Minnesota courts are reluctant to make court records confidential and insist on upholding citizens’ right to access all court records. However, judges may seal some case files produced during Civil Court cases. Redacted and sealed records are usually those that reveal confidential financial and business information or the identities of minors.
In Minnesota, appellate court records are also available to the public. Therefore, orders, motions, and briefs from civil cases handled by Minnesota Court of Appeals and Supreme Court are accessible by members of the public.
How Do I Access Sealed Civil Court Records in Minnesota?
Individuals trying to access sealed court records must request and obtain court orders authorizing them to view and copy the confidential documents. To gain access to these records, the requester must complete and submit the Request for Access to Confidential or Sealed Record form and the Order Regarding Access to Confidential or Sealed Record form.
In these forms, the requester must identify the county and Judicial District where the case was heard. Other necessary information include case file number, name of the case (or one party involved in the case), and case type. The requester must also state their relation to the parties in the case or the involvement in the case. In addition to providing a list of documents they’re seeking to access, the requester must also state why they need to access the records and what they intend to do with them.
After making copies of the completed forms, the requester must file the original copies with the District Court in the county where the case was heard. A judge will then review the request and make a decision based on the information provided.
If the judge grants the request, he or she will sign a court order authorizing access to the records sought. The requester will receive a copy of this order from the court administration. With this copy, the requester can then submit a copy request, to the courthouse maintaining the sealed records, in person or by mail.
How to Obtain Copies of Civil Court Records in Minnesota
Minnesota District Courts allow the public to request civil case records in person and by mail. They offer both plain and certified copies of court records. A plain copy is a regular photocopy while a certified copy has a raised court seal and qualifies as an official, legal record. Court administration charges for both types of copies. Find out the current fees on the District Court Fees page of the Minnesota Judicial Branch website.
To request copies of a Minnesota Civil Court record in person, visit the District courthouse where the case was heard. You can find the court’s physical and mail addresses and other contact information using the search tool provided on the Find Your Court page of the Minnesota Judicial Branch website. A Minnesota District Court will provide copies of requested civil case records on the same day as long as those records are still in the courthouse. Off-site records and those stored on microfilms take longer to process.
To request copies of civil case records by mail, send a written request to the Court Administration Records Room or Section of the District courthouse where the case was heard. Provide information necessary to locate these records including case file number, case name, and complete descriptions of the specific documents needed. Include a self-addressed return envelope as well as a check for copy fees. Mail requests take longer to process and return.
Publicly available records are 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.