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What are Louisiana Civil Court Records?
Louisiana Civil Court Records are official files and documents generated during the trial of civil actions in the state. These documents include notices, orders, motions, docket entries, or other similar records written on paper or recorded electronically as part of the civil court’s adjudication engagement. In accordance with the Louisiana Public Records Law, court records are public records and may be accessed, viewed, and copied by willing individuals, pertinent to their rights. However, some records are deemed confidential by statute or court rule, hence not amenable to public inspection and appraisal.
Cases Heard by Louisiana Civil Courts
Generally speaking, Louisiana trial courts exist as courts of general jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters. New Orleans Parish is the only exception to this judicial arrangement, having a distinct civil and criminal courts. The civil division of these courts oversees various non-criminal and non-violent matters involved in the resolution of disputes between persons and organizations. Such matters include breach of contract matters, domestic-related disputes, landlord/tenant disputes, tort claims, equitable claims, among others.
Who can access Civil Court Records in the State of Louisiana?
The State Constitution provides citizens with easy availability to public information. Following a civil action, the proceedings are filed and stored for future reference and retrieval by interested residents of the state. The clerk of the court where the case of interest was heard is responsible for the safekeeping, retention, and disposal of case records upon request. In other words, the general public has the right to locate the appropriate court of interest to inspect, view, and copy civil records from the court custodian. However, sealed and expunged case records are deemed unavailable for public perusal. Requests for such records yield a ‘No Record Found’ result meaning that authorization and authentication are required before they are released. Furthermore, some clerks may make local policies and guidelines as regards the inspection and copying of civil records.
What information is contained in a Louisiana Civil Court Record?
As expected, the information contained in the various civil case records largely varies may depend on the nature and actions of the case. However, all civil case records share similar headers which include:
- Biodata of parties to the case
- Assigned Attorney(s) information
- Case information (court type, court location, case number, case type, case status)
- Case filing date
- Hearing dates, time, and location
- Events of the case
- Claims and counterclaims
- Financial summary
- Findings/Sentence information
- Judge and division assigned to the case
Understanding Louisiana’s Court Structure
The judiciary of the state of Louisiana primarily comprises a Supreme Court, five circuit courts of appeal, the district courts, and other courts of special and limited jurisdiction, such as the juvenile courts, family courts, justice of the peace courts, mayor’s courts, city courts, and the parish courts.
- The Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is the tribunal of last resort furnished with both mandatory and discretionary jurisdiction by the state law. There are seven judges who sit en banc to hear and determine appeals from lower courts and also offer advisory opinions over questions of state law.
- The First Circuit Court of Appeal: Located in Baton Rouge and composed of twelve judges, Louisiana’s First Circuit Court of Appeal constitutes one of the five intermediate appellate courts in the state, and exercises geographical jurisdiction over civil and criminal appeals across three districts/sixteen parishes namely: Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, Iberville, Lafourche, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, and Washington.
- The Second Circuit Court of Appeal: Consisting of nine judges, the second circuit court of appeals has geographical jurisdiction over criminal and civil appeals in twenty parishes including Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Claiborne, DeSoto, East Carroll, Franklin, Jackson, Lincoln, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Red River, Richland, Tensas, Union, Webster, West Carroll, and Winn.
- The Third Circuit Court of Appeal: Largest of the intermediate appellate courts, the court hears appeals from twenty-one parishes in the state including Acadia, Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Catahoula, Concordia, Evangeline, Grant, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Sabine, St. Landry, St. Martin, Vernon, and Vermilion.
- The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal: Exercises appellate jurisdiction over 3 parishes including New Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard.
- The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal: Has appellate and supervisory jurisdiction over all lower courts within the parishes of Jefferson, St. Charles, St. James, and St. John the Baptist.
- District Court: With the exception of New Orleans which has separate criminal and civil courts, the district courts constitute the courts of general jurisdiction over all criminal and civil matters in the state.
Are Louisiana Civil Court Records Open to the Public?
Consistent with the Louisiana Public Records Act, non-confidential civil court records are public records and may be accessible for viewing, inspection, and copying by interested parties. Essentially, included materials are general case information such as the case style, case number, the presiding judge’s name, attending parties and attorneys, the major events in the case, the case history events, and record information. However, some records may be exempted in part or fully from public view because the safety of the case parties outweighs the need for public access, hence limiting access to such records to only authorized individuals allowed by the special provisions of the law or court order. Some of such records include:
- Adoption and paternity proceedings
- Termination of parental rights cases
- Juvenile delinquency cases
- Child in need of assistance cases (CINA)
- Mental health evaluations cases
- Tax returns from income
- Financial statements filed in a case about child/spousal support
- Some marriage license information
- Reports filed by a physician concerning the medical condition of an alleged disabled adult
- Reports filed by a guardian regarding the property of an alleged disabled adult
How to Find Civil Court Records in Louisiana
Interested members of the public can opt to obtain records:
- By submitting a record request in person
- By searching the state’s online court website
- By requesting for records via mail
How Do I Access Louisiana Criminal Court Records in Person?
Step 1. Identify the Right Court
Civil court records in the state of Louisiana are maintained by the various trial and appellate courts in their respective jurisdiction. Hence, to effectively render a record request, requesters must confirm and locate the court where the criminal case was originally heard. The district court located in each parish is usually the court of interest with the exception of cases that have been appealed to the higher courts. To determine the absolute location of the sought record, willing requesters may visit the Clerks’ directories to obtain the address and contact details of the particular clerk of interest.
Step 2. Gather the Relevant Case Information
For a request to be duly processed by the court clerk, some relevant information specific to the case must be provided to facilitate the search. The case number comprises the most specific information required to conduct a case search. However, in situations where the case number is not known, the requester may render a search using the name(s) of the parties in the case, the name(s) of the attending attorney(s) or the presiding judge, and the approximate date range when the case was filed (eg. 2005 —2010).
Step 3. Request for Records
Most courts provide self-help online terminals for viewing and inspecting court records. However, if copies are also needed, interested parties are required to submit a written application, including relevant details of the case (such as the case number, names of parties to the case, and approximate date range of the case).
Step 4. Make Required Payments for the Records
Although civil court records are free, there is a convenience fee for making copies of the provided documents. Additional charges may apply if certified copies are requested. Interested parties are expected to complete payment before copies of the record are released. The total fee for each record request varies and depends on the number of copies required. Note that some clerks may provide local record request guidelines and may require additional charges for requests in which the case number is not known.
How to Obtain Louisiana Civil Court Records by Mail
To obtain civil court records by mail, residents must first confirm that the court of interest offers this service. Interested parties can confirm this by contacting the clerk of court or visiting the court’s official webpage. All information pertaining to the mailing procedures can be found by contacting the court clerk of interest. Some also clerks outline the “how-to” on their different websites. While the rules vary with different clerks, most courts require that requesters include a copy of a government-issued ID, a self-addressed stamped return envelope as well as a phone address that the clerk can contact for questions. Furthermore, payment validates requests and payment method may be by check, money order, credit card, or by any other means accepted by the specific clerk of interest. However, payment is usually not by cash and mail-in requests without the appropriate payment through an accepted means are rejected. Note that obtaining records by mail may take 3 days to 2 weeks depending on the location of the court and if there was any difficulty in finding the record.
How to Find Louisiana Civil Court Records Online?
The various courts in the Louisiana court system do not operate a unified online case search website that allows members of the public to remotely access records across courts using a single search tool. However, the courts maintain online dockets and case search tools in their respective capacities, hence requestors are required to search the appropriate online portal to locate the record of interest.
- Utilize the Opinion Search Tool to find published civil case opinions for appeals heard in the Supreme Court between the year 1996 to 2004. Older or more recent court records may be obtained from the court custodian in person. Also, the court provides an argument docket in which current, recent, and past case hearings are uploaded.
- The Louisiana first circuit appellate court has an e-clerk counter where copies of criminal court records in CD and paper form may be ordered by interested parties. Users are required to register before access to this portal is granted. Also, subscribers are required to furnish the tool with the required criteria which may be the case number, case party names, and/or docket number. Payment is usually made in advance via VISA, Master Card, or American Express with the exception of checking out case records that can be collected physically from the clerk’s office or shipped UPS-COD. The court also has past and current Argument Docket sheets that are readily available for viewing by judges’ names.
- The Second Circuit Court of Appeals publishes an up-to-date Opinion/Disposition List where interested persons may access the court’s opinions and dispositions. Searches can be conducted by title or date of the sought case.
- Individuals whose case was heard in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals may also access the court’s opinions and dockets using the Opinion and Docket Search Tool.
- Interested persons may also utilize the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Opinions and Docket e-feature to view all docket sheets by case number/case year, case title, case filing year, or by date of publication. In addition, the website features Attorney searches by name and/or bar number to view all docket sheets of a specific attorney.
- The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals features opinion, case, and docket search on their website and willing individuals can conduct a search using the case information.
- Most trial courts operate and provide independent online resources and tools that provide access to court records. Requesters are required to contact the specific court clerk of interest to ascertain if the court offers e-services, as well as obtain comprehensive information as regards the record request procedures.
Publicly available records are also 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.
Are all Louisiana Civil Court Records Online?
Not all Louisiana civil court records are online. Recent civil court cases are maintained in the case search portal while older records of filed cases may be unavailable in digitized format. This asserts that such records can only be viewed in paper print form by walk-in visits and cannot be viewed online until they are imaged and uploaded by the court clerk. Also, online access to confidential civil court cases, such as records of domestic-related cases among many others, are protected from public inspection or view.