Judicial Records Texas: How to Get Free Judicial Records in the State of Texas?
The Texas Public Information Act provides a wide variety of records accessible to everyone in the State of Texas. It states that “...it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government.”
However, the Act does not apply to the Office of Court Administration, and the access to a number of judicial records are not readily available to the public. The concept of transparency in the judicial realm with regards to access-to-information accommodates interests that may at times conflict. For example, releasing documents relating to criminal cases against minors may implicate a number of privacy concerns.
There are common law, statutory law and court rules determined by the Supreme Court of Texas which will determine whether you can get access to judicial records.
Judicial Records Available to the Public
There are a number of court records that are available to the citizens of Texas. These can include copies of complaints filed against municipal judges; records of financial disclosures, continual education, licenses and other credentials of elected judges; or reports of ad litem fees paid to attorneys. Most of these records can be obtained by writing a formal request with a clear and specific reason as to why you need them.
Judicial Records Not Available For Public Disclosure
There are a number of judicial records not available to the public due to security and privacy concerns. Some examples of the type of court records not available for public disclosure include docket sheets of a municipal court; investigative files of Commission on Judicial Conduct; internal deliberations on judicial administration matters; judicial work product; and traffic citations. Only the Supreme Court can decide whether or not to disclose these records in extreme situations.
Where to Find Judicial Records
Criminal records are available at the courthouse or local government office, often for free. To obtain civil or court documents, you must state the reason for your request. The misuse of judicial records is a criminal offense, so be transparent with your intent.
The Texas Judicial Branch is responsible for giving out court records and documents. Usually, the records are kept at the county or municipal court in which the case was held. As such, these records can be more easily found if you know the origin of the case. However, some of these documents may not be available for access to the public even after a request due to the nature of their content.
Here are some things to keep in mind while requesting judicial records:
- Look up the Texas Judicial Branch The information that you are seeking may already be up online and you may not need to go to the court office. If it is not, then you need to write a formal request stating your intent of use.
- Make sure that your reason is clear and specific. Government agencies are required to respond to requests promptly but there can be delays if you present them with a broad request.
- Viewing of judicial records available to the public is free of cost. However, if you need a hard copy, you would need to provide fees to produce copies.
- In case you are charged more than $40.00 for your request, you are entitled to an itemized bill.
There are a number of judicial records available online these days. However, not all records are available for online search nor are all of them available to everyone. In some cases, the records are sealed for use or there are restrictions on the individual requesting access.
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