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North Dakota Court Records

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Where to Find North Dakota Civil Court Records

Civil court records in North Dakota refer to all documentation that chronicles the progress of a case heard in the state's civil courts. A civil case is initiated when an aggrieved legal entity files a complaint with the court. The North Dakota Century Code governs civil cases in North Dakota. Besides interlocutory appeals of civil cases at the state Appellate Courts, the District Courts of the State have general jurisdiction over all civil cases. Records are generated and maintained at the office of the Clerk of District Court. Interested individuals can contact the court of interest to access these records, or use search tools offered by third-party aggregate sites such as NorthDakotaCourtRecords.Us.

Are North Dakota Civil Court Records Public?

According to the North Dakota Open Records Statute, government records are accessible to interested citizens of the state who meet age eligibility requirements and are willing to pay the processing fee. Modified versions of the governing statute regulate the privacy of court records. It means that the court gets to decide which records will be available to the public. The Supreme Court of the State makes this decision. While most court records may be available, personal information within the files is considered confidential to the court's policy.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

Types of Cases in North Dakota Civil Courts

The district courts in North Dakota have original and general jurisdiction in all civil cases. Civil cases in the States can be categorized into small claims and civil matters. Small claims court divisions hear cases with a value of $5,000 and below. The primary civil Court division handles claims of $200,000 and more. Small claims cases include:

Civil matters include:

  • Consumer protection matters
  • Mental health
  • Guardianship
  • Juvenile matters
  • Domestic relations
  • Protection of estates
  • Migration
  • Human rights and public interest
  • Class action suits
  • Breach of civil liberties

What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases in North Dakota?

Civil cases differ from criminal cases in North Dakota in the following ways:

  • The state prosecutes criminal cases because the wrongdoing is against the state. On the other hand, civil cases involve wrongdoing against a single legal entity, such as a group of individuals or a corporate agency.
  • The standard of proof in criminal cases is higher than that of civil cases. In criminal cases, the prosecuting counsel must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the interrogated defendant is guilty of the committed crime. Civil cases allow for sharing blames between parties, while in criminal cases, blame cannot be shared.
  • Civil cases differ from criminal cases in terms of court procedure. Civil courts often referred to court proceedings as hearings. Criminal proceedings are called trials. In a civil court, there is usually no need for a jury, and the judge decides the outcome. A jury trial determines a criminal case unless the defendant files a plea of bargain or a guilty plea.
  • Civil cases do not necessarily require attorney representation, especially during small claims cases. Criminal cases, on the other hand, have mandatory attorney representation. If the defendant cannot afford a private attorney, the court will provide an attorney to the party.
  • The rights and protections of a defendant under criminal law are much more considerable than those for civil cases. An example is the Fourth Amendment of the Federal Code that interprets searches without a warrant as illegal in a criminal case. On the other hand, civil cases do not require stringent laws regarding the rights and protection of the defendant.
  • The outcome of a civil case usually leads to restoration or restitution of damage or loss that has been done to the injured party. The result of a criminal case differs from that of a civil case in that a guilty defendant is convicted and is served justice using punitive measures. Such measures could involve hefty fines and incarceration.

How Do I Find Civil Court Records In North Dakota?

In North Dakota, civil court records are maintained by the Clerk of the District Court in the courthouse where the case was filed or heard. Interested parties have the option of visiting the Clerk of District Court's office or sending a written request by mail. It is necessary to have the standard identifying information of a record to aid in the search, including:

  • The full names of the persons listed in the record
  • The date of the hearing of the case or when the case was filed
  • The case identification number, case type, or the docket number

Parties must then identify the district courthouse where the case was filed or heard. There is a district court in each of the 53 counties in North Dakota. For North Dakota bankruptcy records however, the inquirer will need to query the bankruptcy court in the district where the petition was filed. Use the District Court Location tool to determine the location.

After the correct courthouse is located, requesters must submit a written request either by hand at the District Courthouse of interest or mail to the court address. Verbal requests for civil court records do not require any fee. Interested parties can self-process requests after the court clerk's approval if the request is limited to a visual inspection of the record. There are public computer terminals at the clerk's offices that allow persons to search for information concerning a case. Record inspection is permitted for up to 10 files per day, and all inspections must be done in the presence of court staff. To obtain copies, ask the clerk to copy out information. The cost of copies is 10 cents per page and a minimum charge of $1.

Occasionally, the District Court Clerk may decline a request if it is not available for public inspection. The court clerk communicates it in writing. Transcripts or audio recordings of hearings are available if deemed public under Administrative Rule 41 of the Supreme Court. A copy of valid photo identification must accompany third-party requests. If the record is restricted, a notarized release from the record bearer or court order is required for access. In-person requests are often given priority when compared with mailed requests.

How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?

The state of North Dakota Court provides online access to District court case information across the state. It is called the North Dakota Court Records Inquiry System (NDCRI). NDCRI is made available as a 24-hour service to the general public free of charge. Case records on NDCRI are not official court records and hence not certified. Note that not all courts impute data on NDCRI. Here is the list of courts on NDCRI. Case information is often updated daily. It is recommended that parties use case numbers, case type, and court location to return accurate search results.

What Is Included In a North Dakota Civil Court Record?

The type of civil case involved characterizes the contents of a civil court record. Generally, a civil Court record in North Dakota contains the following:

individuals name and the parties involved

  • A copy of the complaint filed with the court
  • The amount of the claim
  • Court dispositions and judgements
  • Counter-complaint by the defendant
  • The date of filing and receipts of court fees
  • Copies of court documentation such as summons, evidence of service
  • Copies of court injunctions such as protection or restraining orders arrest warrants

How to Access North Dakota Civil Court Records For Free

Civil court records in North Dakota can be accessed for free by anyone using specific methods. Parties may visit the district courthouse and make a verbal request for the availability of a record or the public computer terminals available at the District Court clerk's office. Another option is using third-party websites that may offer these records at no cost.

How to Seal Civil Court Records in North Dakota

Certain portions of civil court records in North Dakota are considered confidential and are therefore not available for public access. When a search is done for case information, certain details may not show up because the records are partially sealed per North Dakota Supreme Court Administrative Rule 41.

To get an entire record or specific information within a record sealed, the court can order to prohibit access. A party to the case can also ask the court to prevent access to that information. Such a request must be submitted as a written motion to the court handling the case while giving notice to all other parties involved. The court considers the motion decides whether to approve the request. A determining rule for approving a request is if the privacy of interest weighs more than public information, such as if there is a threat to:

  • The safety of the involved parties
  • The right of the individual to a fair trial 
  • Proprietary business information 
  • The safety of the general public

Upon approval, the court issues an order to have that portion of the record sealed off and all associated information in other government agencies within the state. Note that a record could be sealed for a limited period or permanently. Juvenile records that meet state laws requirements are expunged when the juvenile becomes an adult, and requests for expunction.

How to Access Sealed Civil Court Records in North Dakota

A decision to seal up a record in civil court can be reversed by anyone involved. The requesting individual submits a written motion with an additional notification to all other parties involved. The court schedules a hearing and decides if there is cause to admit the record into the public domain. A third party motion to unseal a record involves a similar process. The difference is that the third party must provide sufficient reason for the petition. The court judge examines the petition at a hearing. If the petition is credible, the judge issues an order to have the record unsealed for the third party.

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