Michigan Civil Court Records
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What are Michigan Civil Court Records?
Michigan civil court records are official documents that provide an objective account of civil court proceedings within the state’s jurisdiction. These records include all court actions, motions, judgments, penalties and/or settlements relating to the civil suit and are maintained by the office of the clerk of courts in the court where the case was heard. Interested members of the public may find Michigan civil court records in the jurisdiction where the case was heard.. However, access to most records requires that the requesting party meet any required eligibility conditions.
Cases Heard in Michigan’s Civil Courts
Michigan civil courts attend to non-criminal cases often pertaining to non-violent disputes between individuals and establishments. Cases heard in civil courts may be regarding:
- Contract-based disputes and agreement violations
- Traffic violations
- Consumer complaints
- Workplace accidents and/or injuries
- Family-related cases including adoption, guardianship, divorce, child support and/or custody and related concerns
- Civil rights violations, discrimination, entitlements, etc.
Civil cases are often resolved by an agreed-upon financial settlement or court order/decree. Summarily, all matters relating to equitable and tort claims, landlord-tenant disputes and general complaints/violations are in the jurisdiction of the state’s civil courts.
Michigan’s Civil Court System
The state of Michigan operates a four-tier unified judicial system. This system encompasses the state Supreme court, the Michigan Court of Appeals, the trial courts (including circuit and district courts) and several other specialized and administrative courts such as small claims, probate, and bankruptcy courts.
Civil court cases are the primary responsibility of Michigan’s district courts which are alternatively known as the people’s courts. They handle all traffic violations and civil cases requiring financial claims of up to $25,000. However, the state circuit court also operates a family division which hears non-violent family matters and may also be considered a civil court. In addition to this, the circuit court also hears appeals from any of the state’s 105 district courts. However, the main appellate courts of the state are Michigan’s Court of Appeals and State Supreme Court. While the Court of Appeals serves as an intermediary between trial courts and the supreme court, the supreme court is the highest court and the court of last resort in the state of Michigan. Thus, although most civil cases begin in the Michigan district courts, they are finalized in the state’s appellate courts.
What is Included In a Michigan Civil Court Record?
Michigan civil court records are typically unique to each case but often feature the same general information. Records may also vary depending on the case and the nature of the allegations, the court where the case was filed or the court custodian which manages it. Generally speaking, most civil court record will feature:
- Details of the complaint, allegation and any amendments or substitutions to the complaint following the initial report.
- The personal information of the complainant/plaintiff and the defendant
- Court summons and orders of notices
- Filings, affidavits, and evidence presented by either party
- The trial transcripts including appearances, motions, and oral arguments
- The defendant’s plea
- Memorandum of decision and final judgments,
- Penalties, agreed-upon financial settlements and any probationary conditions that apply.
Are Michigan Civil Court Records Open to the Public?
As per state laws, Michigan civil court records are provided to interested members of the public upon request. Following the establishment of Rule 8.116 of the state’s public record laws, access to records may only be restricted if there are specific interests to be protected which significantly displace the public’s right to access the records. Thus, most civil court records will be available to interested persons except the record is pertaining to/contains information such as:
- Personal information about juveniles and minors
- Information regarding psych/mental health evaluations
- Details of financial accounts, social security numbers
- Assets declared in divorce, child custody or child support hearings
- Information pertaining to battery and domestic violence.
How do I Obtain Civil Court Records in Michigan?
There are a variety of channels through which civil court records can be accessed in the state of Michigan. However, given the distinct record management and dissemination methods employed by various record custodians, the procedures and requirements for accessing civil court records may vary depending on the content of the record, the court in which it is housed and the authority of the requesting party. Generally however, Michigan civil court records can be obtained online, via mail or by making in-person requests to the court record custodian.
- How to Access Michigan Civil Court Records In-person
While most Michigan court records can be accessed remotely, there are extensive limitations placed on the accessibility of court record information through remotely accessible channels. In most cases, and regardless of the authority of the requestor, sensitive and/or confidential information will not be disseminated virtually and require in-person requests to be obtained.
Locating the Record
To obtain a civil court record in person, requestors must proceed by locating the jurisdiction where the suit was filed and the case heard. In the state of Michigan, this is primarily the district court, but records may be managed by the circuit courts, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. The Michigan One Court of Justice website features a directory of trial courts which details the addresses and contact information of district courts across the state.
Other factors that might determine the location of the civil court record is the nature of the complaint and the current status of the case.
Haven located the civil court were the record is housed, requestors may proceed to inquire about any requirements for accessing the record of interest. In most cases, these requirements will include the information needed to facilitate record search such as the names of the parties involved, the case and docket number of the file, the place and date of the original complaint, the case number of the police incident report (if applicable) and the name of either or both attorney’s and/or the presiding judge. For access to confidential records, requestors must also provide a court order authorizing access to the record as well as any identifying documents to validate their eligibility to access the record.
Requesting the Record
In-person requests for civil court records must be made to the custodian’s office or the appropriate courthouse during office hours. In some jurisdictions, access to the courthouse or clerk office is only allowed on an appointment-basis. As such, requestors are advised to schedule an appointment with the required office.
Upon making in-person requests for the civil court records, the requesting party may be required to present a government-issued ID. Requestors may also be required to cover the cost of paper copies and other electronic forms. Where this is the case, the requested records are not provided unless the financial and identification criteria have been satisfied.
- How to Access Michigan Civil Court Records Via Mail
Requests for civil court records may also be made by sending written requests to the record custodian via U.S. mail. The requirements for obtaining civil court records via mail generally varies with the court and the case type. Generally, most mail-in requests must indicate the type of record required, the personal information of the requesting party, the full names of the complainant and defendant, the case file number of the record and the date on which the suit was originally filed.
Written requests are often enclosed along with a cheque or money order payment of any indicated fees, a copy of the government-issued photo ID of the requestor and a self-addressed envelope (if required by the custodian). Additional information regarding the process may be obtained by contacting the custodian of the record of interest.
- How to Access Michigan Civil Court Records Online
The state of Michigan offers residents access to civil court records through the judiciary’s One Court of Justice website. The site features a case search tool with which interested persons may search the statewide database for records of civil cases heard by Michigan’s Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. However, this tool excludes data from the trial courts as well as records deemed confidential by law or court order.
To use the tool, users are advised to follow the instructions indicated on the case search tips page. Requestors may search the database using the specified criteria which may be case docket number or the full name of any of the person(s) or companies involved. The tool may also be handy for viewing the docket sheets of an attorney. In this case, the attorney’s name and/or their bar number.
With most Michigan districts operating independently, the online resources for accessing civil court records are managed by the individual courts. As such, the One Court of Justice website also features a Trial Court Directory which provides comprehensive information regarding the district courts of various jurisdictions as well as the online services which they provide. The directory may be searched by county for information regarding courts that provide online access to records and docket search tools.
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 a 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.
- How to Access Michigan Civil Court Records For Free
Most online resources managed by the Public Information Office of the state of Michigan can be used to access electronic civil court records at no cost. The case search the opinion and order tools featured on Michigan’s official judicial website can both be used for free. Also available on the website is an index of schedules, calendars and case information, all of which can be accessed for free, remotely. Additionally, the courts listed on the Trial Court Directory also provide free online resources for accessing civil court records of district courts. While most records can be accessed at no cost requestors who opt to use the court public-service terminals may be charged a nominal fee if they require paper or media copies. Additional certification and authentication fees will also be charged to requestors requiring copies with a raised seal.
- How to Access Sealed Civil Court Records
Pursuant to Michigan’s right of public access (Rule 8.116),, interested members of the public may be allowed to challenge court-ordered limitations on the accessibility of civil court records. As such, sealed civil court records may be made available to persons who meet specific eligibility requirements.
To be eligible to access a sealed court record, the requesting party will be required to have the legal authority provided by a court order/subpoena. However, the legal representative of the persons involved and law enforcement agents/agencies may access records with minimal permissions.
Other Civil Court Information Resources
In addition to providing online access civil court case records, the OCJ also features other relevant information pertaining to the courts including opinions, calendars and addresses/contact information of various courts, judges and court clerks. Interested persons may access this information using the Opinion and Order Search tool. To obtain information using the tool, users may conduct searches for opinions and orders of Michigan’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The criteria required include the name of the party name, docket number and any related keywords.
Are there Public Records of Alternative Dispute Resolutions in Michigan?
If possible, the parties involved in Michigan civil suits and disputes may opt to resolve their differences using alternative dispute resolution processes. These are considered to be the cheaper alternative to litigation and offer options such as neutral evaluation, arbitration, and mediation. These processes allow disputing parties to reach resolutions outside the courtroom within the requirements of the state’s legal system. Alternative dispute resolution processes are typically overseen by legal and conflict resolution experts as well as the legal representatives of both parties. However, unlike court proceedings, ADR processes are not publicly held, and while they are documented, details of the proceeding are often kept confidential. This is especially convenient for individuals and establishments which would rather maintain their privacy.
It is common practice for the persons involved to be bound by non-disclosure agreements to keep details of the process private. Notwithstanding, interested persons with sufficient legal authority may access these records especially if they are relevant for legal and/or security purposes.