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Montana Court Records

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Where to Find Montana Civil Court Records

Civil Court records in Montana are official documents on civil actions and proceedings involving two or more parties within the jurisdiction of the state. These documents include filings, disclosure statements, court transcripts, motions, notices of hearings, affidavits, and interrogatories created during civil litigations. The Clerk of Courts creates, maintains, and disseminates Civil Court records in the District Court where the case was filed. Likewise, requesters may obtain these Civil Court records on MontanaCourtRecords.Us.

Are Montana Civil Court Records Public?

Yes, the Montana Public Records Act makes provisions for interested members of the public to view and copy non-confidential Civil Court records at the Clerk of Courts Office in the local courthouse where the case was filed. However, exceptions apply to records that contain sensitive information about the parties involved or records involving minors. In this case, access to confidential and sealed court records is restricted to:

  • The litigants
  • Their legal designees
  • Attorneys of litigants
  • Court officials and certain government agencies
  • Individuals granted access by court order

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 Montana Civil Courts

Cases that are regarded as Civil in Montana are non-criminal in nature and are settled under the Civil Procedure in the Montana Code Annotated. These cases typically involve the person who filed the lawsuit asking the Civil Court to compel the defendant to fulfill an obligation or pay the compensatory damages. However, not all civil cases end up going to trial. The parties involved may enter a plea bargain through court-mandated arbitration. Examples of civil cases involve:

  • Libel suits
  • Bankruptcy filings
  • Challenging educational/school restrictions
  • Creditor-debtor disputes
  • Replevin actions
  • Landlord-tenant disputes
  • Non-violent discrimination
  • Small Claims
  • Violation of privacy rights
  • Tort Cases
  • Intellectual property and trade secret disputes
  • Real estate and boundary disputes
  • Divorce and separation
  • Child custody and child support
  • Juvenile Records
  • Contract and Property Disputes

What is the Difference between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases in Montana?

Determining whether a case is criminal or civil involves two factors. If the actions of the defendant are as those described under Title 45 of the Montana Code Annotated, then it is a criminal case. In this case, the financial loss suffered by the victim is not the main cause of litigation. The state - and not the victim - is the prosecutor, and the court imposes penalties such as jail time and/or fines on the guilty offender. For example, if someone is arrested for assaulting another civilian.

Contrarily, civil cases are classified under Title 25 of the Montana Code Annotated and they involve the enforcement or protection of private rights and the remedy or prevention of wrongs. In this case, the plaintiff must initiate legal action to petition the court to compel the defendant to fulfill an obligation or compensate the plaintiff for wrongs. For example, if a landlord intentionally rents a bug-infested apartment and refuses to fumigate after the tenant calls their attention to it, the tenant may initiate a civil suit in court.

How Do I Find Civil Court Records In Montana?

The Clerk of Courts creates, maintains, and disseminates Civil Court records at the local court where the case was filed and heard. Requesters may use the court locator maintained by the Montana Judiciary to find the address and contact information of the court of interest. Generally, a requester must visit the Clerk's Office in person during business hours to obtain the court records of interest. Moreover, courts may allow mail-in requests, remote online access, or access to records at public terminals in the courthouse. Generally, in-person and online requests are the fastest means of accessing court records.

However, regardless of the means of access, a requester must provide the records' custodian with all the relevant information needed to facilitate the record search. This includes the date of filing, personal information about the litigants, case number, docket number, etc. For Montana bankruptcy records, for instance, the requesting party may need to provide details pertaining to the petition and it’s subject.

Furthermore, requesters will be required to provide a government-issued photo-ID to access court records at the Clerk's Office. Most courts also require requesters to pay a small fee to facilitate the search and cover the costs of copying the documents. Besides, requesters who seek certified records may incur additional fees. Likewise, requesters who seek access to confidential and sealed court records must provide a court order along with the aforementioned requirements.

How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?

Generally, requesters may obtain Montana Civil Court records online using the electronic case management resources on the state or local judiciary website. However, the online availability of court records differs from county to county. At the state level, the Montana Supreme Court maintains an online case docket. Requesters may also use the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system to find civil court records online. Besides, third-party websites provide online access to court records. This is especially useful to find multiple court records in different local jurisdictions.

However, online access to confidential or sealed records containing the following is restricted:

  • Year of birth
  • Financial statements containing PINs and SSNs (except the last 4 digits)
  • Tax Identification Numbers (except the last 4 digits)
  • Protective orders
  • Income tax returns
  • Identifying information on a minor
  • Testimony from a juvenile or minor
  • Adoption
  • Guardianship terminating parental rights

What Is Included In a Montana Civil Court Record?

The information on Civil Court records varies depending on the nature of the case, the litigants involved, the local jurisdiction, etc. However, a typical Civil Court record contains the following information:

  • Name and address of the litigants
  • Name and address of the litigants' attorney (if represented)
  • Court summons
  • Notices of hearing
  • Details of the complaint or claim
  • Amendments to the complaint or claim
  • Disclosure statement
  • Depositions
  • Interrogatories
  • Damages sought
  • Injunctions
  • Affidavits and exhibits
  • Court transcripts
  • Judges' notes (if applicable)
  • Final judgments, agreements, or settlements

How to Access Montana Civil Court Records For Free

Generally, the Clerk of District Court provides free access to PACER portal on public terminals at the courthouse. The PACER system also exempts certain individuals from paying access fees under specific .circumstances. Likewise, the Clerk of Courts may also waive associated access fees if the requester qualifies. However, sensitive records and private information are not available with a waiver. To access these records, the requester must present a court order to the official custodian of the record.

How to Seal Civil Court Records in Montana

Rule 5 of the Montana Rule of Civil Procedure allows litigants to make a petition for the protection of filings made with the court. To seal a Civil Court record in Montana, the petitioner must file a motion to seal with the Clerk of Courts where the case was heard. The court may grant the request to seal or redact all or parts of records if the petition demonstrates compelling privacy or safety interests that outweigh public interest to access the court record. The litigants, attorneys of the litigants, their legal designees, certain court officials, and government agencies retain access to the sealed court records. However, members of the public and potential employers cannot access sealed court records without a court order.

How to Access Sealed Civil Court Records in Montana

Generally, the records' custodian will deny a request to access sealed civil court records. Thus, the requester must petition the court to issue a court order or subpoena. The court will only grant the petition if the requester demonstrates specific legal interests and meets court requirements. Requesters who wish to access sealed court records may consult a civil law attorney or inquire about the procedure at the Clerk of Courts Office.

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