Washington Court Records
Where to Find Washington Civil Court Records
Records generated due to the court proceedings of civil cases tried in Washington Courts are referred to as Washington Civil Court Records. These records include transcripts, dockets, motions, judgments, orders, recordings, decrees, and other case-related documents or information. In Washington, civil court records are prepared, maintained, and disseminated by the civil courts with jurisdiction over the cases. These records are also accessible through third-party websites such as Washington.CourtRecords.Org.
Are Washington Civil Court Records Public?
Yes, Washington civil court records are available to the public under the Washington Public Records Act and GR 31 of the Washington Court Rules. Anyone may search for, inspect, or obtain civil court records from the state's civil courts. However, some records are closed to the public by court order or statute and available only to qualified parties. Usually, these parties include the subject of the record, the immediate family of the subject, legal/authorized representatives of the subject, law enforcement agencies, and other parties authorized by court order. Records that are restricted in the state include juvenile records, mental health records, investigative information, adoption records, alcohol and drug treatment records, and other records sealed by court order.
Types of Cases in Washington Civil Courts
Civil courts hear all types of civil disputes. In Washington, the civil courts are the Superior and District Courts. The District Courts handle civil actions up to or under $100,000 and small claims up to $5,000, or $10,000 (when an individual brings the action), in damages. The Superior Courts are general jurisdiction courts and can handle any type of civil case regardless of the amount due in damages. These cases include, but are not limited to:
- Landlord or tenant disputes
- Contract disputes
- Small claims
- Tort claims
- Traffic violations
- Family and domestic matters
- Class actions
- Employee disputes
- Consumer complaints
- Workplace accidents
- Warranty disputes
- Real estate or property disputes
What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases in Washington?
Civil cases are non-violent disagreements that occur between individuals and private/public institutions. Usually, these cases are resolved financially by out-of-court mutual agreement or in court by a judge and in some instances, a jury. Criminal cases, on the other hand, are violations of federal or state criminal laws. Individuals or institutions prosecuted under the state's criminal laws are subject to fines and imprisonment, depending on the nature of the crime.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records In Washington?
Interested parties may find civil court records in Washington through the courts where the case was handled. These records can be requested in-person at the courthouse, online, or through the mail, fax, or email order services provided by the courts. Each District or Superior Court in the state has its order methods, fees, and forms for obtaining or viewing these records; therefore, it is important to look up these procedures and local court rules prior to the request. However, the courts maintain a similar format for in-person or mail requests. Interested parties requesting using these methods may follow these steps:
- Identify the record: Requesters must have information on the record being sought after. This makes it easier for the Clerk of Court to identify the record and process the request promptly. Such information may include the record holder's name (including aliases), date of birth, date of filing, or case number.
- Find the Court: The Superior and District Courts are the trial courts in Washington that handle civil cases. Record requests must be made to the civil court where the action was filed. Interested parties may locate the court by city or county using the directory provided on the Washington Courts website.
- Request: Most times, requesters may walk into a court during business hours to request to view or obtain court records. However, the Clerk of Court may be contacted to find out if an appointment needs to be scheduled first. The Clerk of Court's contact information is available on the applicable court's official website, or through the court directory. There is no charge to view these records in the courthouse but there is a fee to copy them. Parties may also view indexes of cases and case documents through public access terminals located in the courthouses. Applicants requesting by mail are usually required to submit an application form and the copy fees to the courthouse. This form is available to download on the Clerk of Court's website or obtainable by contacting the Clerk of Court's office.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?
Civil court records are accessible online through the Washington Courts Search Case Records site. Interested parties may search for civil cases tried in the Superior and District Courts. Parties searching for cases in the Superior courts, except King County Superior Court, may use the Odyssey Portal. King County Superior court records are accessible through the Records Access Portal. Using this tool, it is possible to search for a case by a person's name, case number, or attorney. Individuals may also search for judgments, licensed health facilities, or find court dates. However, the complete court records are not available online. To obtain or inspect complete records, requesting parties may contact the court where the case was filed. Still, some Clerks of Court provide online access to look up, view, or obtain court records and case documents for a fee. Case documents may also be viewed online through the Judicial Information System (JIS).
What Is Included In a Washington Civil Court Record?
Although the information contained in a Washington civil court record varies depending on the type of civil case, some similarities remain. The following information can be found on a civil court record:
- Personal information of the plaintiff, defendant, attorneys, and witnesses (if applicable)
- Filings, complaints, suits, and amendments
- The plaintiff's or defendant's evidence
- Final judgments
- Agreements and court-ordered settlements
- All docket information
How to Access Washington Civil Court Records For Free
Washington civil court records are available to view for free at the courthouses. Requesters are only charged when they request copies of the records, or request to view or obtain non-confidential court records electronically.
How to Seal Civil Court Records in Washington
Civil court records can be sealed, redacted, or expunged in Washington. When a record is sealed or redacted, the entire record, or parts of it, are barred from public inspection. Whereas when it is expunged, it is destroyed and made irretrievable. Before a record can be sealed, redacted, or expunged in the state, the court or party involved must request a hearing to that effect. Once the hearing is concluded, the record may be sealed or redacted by court order. This order is granted only if there are adequate concerns that transcend the right of public access such as:
- Privacy or security concerns such as social security, financial, phone, or driver license numbers, and the date of birth of a minor
- Court records that are sealed or redacted by statute
- If the sealing or redaction is relevant to an order issued under RCW 4.24.611, CR 12(f), or CR 26(c)
A record may be expunged only if there is a statute that permits the destruction of the record.
How to Access Sealed Civil Court Records in Washington
Under GR 15, members of the public do not have access to sealed court records or redacted information. To access these records, the requesting party must be authorized legally or possess a court order. However, unless prohibited by statute, it is possible to view information such as the names of parties involved, case type, cause of action, and the notation, "case sealed" on-court indexes.