North Dakota Court Records
What are North Dakota Civil Court Records?
North Dakota civil court records are official documents detailing the litigation processes of civil courts within the state’s jurisdiction. They are generated to provide an account of various court proceedings and are typically maintained by court clerks. Civil court records primarily contain information relevant to each civil case such as details of court summons, motions and motion arguments, court actions and documents relevant to the case and any court-issued rights or financial claims granted upon concluding the case. Pursuant to North Dakota public record laws, these records can be accessed by interested and eligible members of the public upon request.
Cases Heard by North Dakota Civil Court
North Dakota civil suits are typically filed following interpersonal conflicts, intra- and inter-business disputes of a civil nature and related rifts usually involving personal grievances, agreement breaches, and personal injury or property damage. North Dakota civil courts are tasked with hearing all civil cases in the aforementioned categories. Summarily, the cases heard by these courts include cases pertaining to:
- Tort, equitable claims
- Breach of contract, unlawful termination and related cases
- Consumer complaints and all other similar complaints
- Claims caused by character defamation such as slander and libel
- Landlord/tenant disputes
- Interpersonal and workplace disputes
- Family-related cases (excluding cases in which a felony was committed)
The North Dakota Civil Court System
The North Dakota judiciary operates different courts with varying authorities. However, civil cases are entertained by courts with jurisdiction to hear non-criminal cases. All the state courts are unified under the authority of North Dakota’s Supreme Court. Essentially, the North Dakota court system consists of:
- North Dakota Supreme Court
- North Dakota Court of Appeals
- North Dakota District Courts
- North Dakota Municipal Courts
- North Dakota District Courts
- North Dakota Court of Appeals
Pursuant to North Dakota judicial laws, state District Courts have jurisdiction to entertain civil cases being the state’s court of general jurisdiction. These courts are situated in the state’s seven judicial districts in all 53 counties of the state. The Court of Appeals serves as the state’s intermediate appellate court, hearing appeals from district courts while the state Supreme Court is North Dakota’s court of last resort with exclusive jurisdiction over claims involving the state or public government offices.
What is Included in a North Dakota Civil Court Record?
Most North Dakota civil court records are unique to each case and may vary depending on the record custodian or the judicial district in which the case was filed/heard. However, given that court records are typically designed to provide an official account of the court’s processes, they detail general court case information pertaining to a civil suit. North Dakota Civil court records usually feature details of the suit and the basis for the complaint made. The full names of the parties involved and details of the defendant’s response to the complaint are also included. Records also detail the negotiations of the pre-trial conference as well as details of the court hearing, including court motions, actions, the evidence presented by either party as well as court appearances, and other related documents or information.
Civil court records also indicate the court’s final verdict and financial settlements or court-issued rights. This generally includes alimony/spousal support, child custody, visitation and child support. If a verdict is reviewed by the state’s appellate courts, the updated judgment is also included in the civil court record.
Are North Dakota Civil Court Records Open to the Public?
In keeping with North Dakota public record laws most information contained in civil court records are public information which can be made available to interested members of the public upon request. However, the right of public access to civil court case information is not absolute. Summarily, only records regarded as ‘open’ can be made accessible to the public. Public records include general case information such as court actions, motions, orders, motion arguments, court appearances, and dispositions. Other records that are confidential or sealed by court order may only be accessed by persons who meet specific eligibility requirements. The following records are exempt from public access:
- The personal and contact information of selected persons including assault victims, juveniles, minors, and vulnerable persons
- Reports, documents presented by social service personnel and by extension, most welfare cases
- Selected information pertaining to legal actions in which public offices are involved
- In some cases, details of the amount paid in settlement
- Details of the financial status of the parties involved as well as their social security numbers, financial bank account numbers, and credit card numbers
- Records and reports pertaining to psychological evaluation and mental health assessments.
- Records pertaining to nolle-pressed charges
Public court records are accessible via online resources provided by the state. However, all confidential information is usually not accessible electronically and may only be obtained following in-person requests to the record custodian.
How do I Obtain Civil Court Records In North Dakota?
In compliance with the state’s public record laws, The North Dakota state judiciary provides access to civil court records to interested members of the public. To obtain a record, requestors may use the available online resources or query the office of the clerk of courts in the courthouse where the case was filed or heard. Generally, record retrieval procedures differ depending on the judicial district and the record required. However, North Dakota civil court records can be accessed by using the available online resources (managed by the state or third parties), by sending written requests to the office of the clerk of courts or by making in-person requests to the office of the record custodian.
Accessing North Dakota Civil Court Records Online
The State of North Dakota Courts website features an online record search tool with which interested members of the public can access civil court records remotely. Interested persons can obtain records generated by any of the state courts by searching the portal using the name(s) of the parties involved, the case status, the case file number or the filed date of the record. This portal can be used remotely or on the public terminals available in any of the state courthouses.
Using the North Dakota Court Records Inquiry tool, interested persons may also retrieve traffic records as well as court calendars or judgment publications.
Additionally, some, but not all of North Dakota trial courts and court clerks maintain independent websites and online repositories with which records can be retrieved. 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
Accessing North Dakota Civil Court Records In-person
Civil court case information can be obtained by making in-person requests to the office of the clerk of courts in the court where the case was heard. In-person record requests are especially recommended to persons seeking full court case information. Pursuant to North Dakota’s public record laws, the distribution of confidential court case information through publicly accessible online repositories is restricted. As such, civil court records that are confidential or sealed by court order can be made available to eligible persons who make in-person requests to the office of the custodian. Requests for civil court records may proceed thus:
- Locate the Record Custodian
Civil court records are generally generated and maintained by the court clerk in which the case was heard. As such in-person court record requests require that the requesting party locate and confirm the judicial district in which the suit was filed and the court where the case was heard.
Civil cases in North Dakota are primarily entertained by the state’s civil courts. As such, civil court records are likely to be domiciled with any of the clerks of these courts depending on the location of the plaintiff, or where the grievance occured. On the other hand, records of cases with appealed judgment are typically updated and maintained by the appellate court that reviewed the verdict. This is usually North Dakota’s Court of Appeals or State Supreme Court. Information regarding the state’s various courts and the contact details of their respective court clerks can be obtained using the resources available on the North Dakota Courts website.
- Collect the Required Information
Upon confirming the location of the desired record in the judicial district where the case was heard, the requesting party may proceed to contact the record custodian for information regarding the court’s record retrieval process. While the requirements for record retrieval generally varies from court to court and may depend on the case, persons seeking access to civil court records are often required to provide all the details needed to facilitate record searches. This information typically includes the full name(s) of either or both of the parties involved, the case file number of the record (if known) and the approximate date on which the case was filed/heard.
- Visit the Court Record Custodian
Requesters may be required to schedule each visit to the courthouse. However, the office of the clerk of courts typically processes requests during official working hours. In most cases, requestors will be allowed to self serve using the public-access computer terminals available at most courthouses. However, if the requestor requires confidential and/or certified records, the court clerk will process the search and authenticate the document. To proceed with the search, the requestor is usually required to complete an implication indicating the required information as well as the personal and contact details of the requesting party.
- Meet Identification and Fee Requirements
To obtain a record, requestors are required to confirm their eligibility by presenting a government-issued photo ID. In some cases, requestors are also charged a nominal fee to cover search/copy costs depending on the requested record. Where this is the case, the court clerk will only proceed with the search after the fee and ID requirements have been met. Additionally, records that are confidential are usually restricted to persons with specific legal authorities. As such, persons interested in obtaining confidential records must also provide a court-issued order/subpoena along with the ID and fees. Where the requestor cannot provide a photo ID, other documents may serve as alternative forms of ID—however, this is the prerogative of the record custodian.
How to Obtain Civil Court Records Via Mail?
North Dakota’s state laws permit the dissemination of some civil court records via U.S. mail. The requirements for accessing records via mail vary with different courts, depending on the case type, the record custodian and the judicial district where the case was heard. Requestors are advised to contact the record custodian for information regarding the requirements of the court prior to preparing a request. However, most mail-in requests require that the requesting party prepare a written request which should indicate the following:
- The full name and contact information of either or both parties involved in the case
- General case information including the place/date on which the case was heard
- The case file number, docket number and or appellate case number of the record (if applicable)
- The names of the attorney involved and in some cases, their state bar number
- The personal and contact information of the requesting party.
- General information regarding appellate reviews to the original verdict (if applicable)
In addition to the above, some record custodians require that requesters enclose a photocopy of their government-issued photo ID, a payment to cover search/copy fees in cheque or money order form as well as a stamped, self-addressed envelope with which to receive the requested record.
How Do I Access Sealed Civil Court Records in North Dakota?
While the dissemination of sealed or confidential records is restricted by North Dakota courts, these records may be made available to eligible persons if the record is proven relevant in a legal dispute or for security/financial purposes. Interested persons may obtain sealed records by challenging the record’s confidentiality or the order to seal the record. To do so, the requesting party must petition a North Dakota-licensed judge to obtain a subpoena which will overrule the confidentiality of the record. In selected cases, the requestor may also require a written and notarized permission from the subject(s) of the record to access the record of interest. These records are generally not available using online resources but can be obtained by making in-person requests to the office of the record custodian.