Washington Court Records
What are Washington Bankruptcy Records?
Filing for bankruptcy is an option for Washington residents who are faced with financial difficulties and made every effort to meet financial obligations to no avail. The bankruptcy court presides over the procedure and grants debtors legal protection against harassment or similar creditors’ retribution. Unlike civil cases under Washington state courts, bankruptcy is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bankruptcy courts in Washington. These federal courts of limited jurisdiction grant bankruptcy under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and Rules and the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. Records of bankruptcy proceedings are available to the public through the presiding courts and contain chronological records of filings and adjudication until date. These records are also available on third-party sites like CourtRecords.Us.
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 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 the person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
What do Washington Bankruptcy Records Contain?
Bankruptcy records generally contain a chronological outline of actions taken on a bankruptcy filing submitted by an individual or company. The contents of these records are different for everyone, but requesters can expect to see the following information in a typical bankruptcy record:
- Filer personal information
- Schedule of assets (real estate, equities, and securities)
- Schedule of liabilities
- Statement of monthly income
- Income and expenses sheet
- Creditors’ information
- Proof of claim
- Information on Court-appointed trustee
Are Bankruptcy Records Public Information?
Yes, bankruptcy records are public information under the Freedom of Information Act. The stark reality is that the bankruptcy process can be intrusive due to the public availability of documents on the filer’s financial activities. However, the availability of bankruptcy records is a hallmark of American democracy to ensure equitable access to information. Furthermore, the record’s availability serves as a caution to the filer as he or she begins a new debt-free life, as well as entities considering financial dealings with the filer in the future—it does not confer a stigma on the bankrupt party.
Often, the court may issue an order to seal or redact financial records that contain sensitive information if the availability of the record poses significant threats to privacy, security, or finances. However, the courts rarely grant petitions to seal records that do not contain medical records or information related to a minor.
How to Get Washington Bankruptcy Records
Interested members of the public who have interests in obtaining bankruptcy records have three options. If access to the record is a pressing matter, and the requester can forego convenience, they may visit the court in person. In this case, there is a small matter regarding which court to visit because Washington categorizes the Bankruptcy courts into districts. The state judiciary helps requesters identify the locations that fall under specific districts. For example, the Washington Western Bankruptcy Court filed bankruptcy filings from Seattle, while filings from East Washington counties fall under the Washington Eastern Bankruptcy Court. Once the requester has identified the bankruptcy court’s office handling a case, he or she may visit the court during business hours to access records on public terminals or request hard copies from the record custodian.
Alternatively, the requester may choose to send mail requests if the need for the record is not urgent. However, this is by no means easier as the requester must prepare a written request for the records citing the FOIA law. The request must also describe the record sought with enough information to enable record search. Otherwise, the custodian will return the request unanswered. Furthermore, the requester must have contacted the courts to estimate associated costs and attach a money order or check to that effect. A request that contains the information mentioned above is complete, and the requester may proceed to enclose the documents in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Then, he or she must mail the request to the applicable bankruptcy court.
Finally, online requests or searches for bankruptcy records are the most convenient as the requester may accomplish the same goal of reposing their abode. The Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is a case management system that allows requesters to access public records. The documents accessed through PACER are scanned copies of the same records available in the courthouse. To use PACER to find bankruptcy records:
- Visit the website;
- Create an account by providing personal information and credit card details;
- Log in and select the find a case tab to open the PACER case locator;
- Switch to the bankruptcy tab and use case information to find the records of interest.
A unifying characteristic of all the ways mentioned above of obtaining bankruptcy records is that the requester must provide case information. Some of these include case number, party’s name, date of filing, and docket number. PACER also allows requesters to search by providing partial Social Security Numbers. However, a drawback of PACER is that online availability is limited to records scanned up to date. For older bankruptcy records, the requester has to contact the court which filed the case.
Furthermore, regarding the associated fees for accessing court records, PACER charges $0.10 per page for up to 30 pages of a single document. Other modes of requests cost $0.50 per page for photocopies and a $31.00 search fee. If the requester needs certified copies, a certification fee of $11.00 applies per document.
How do I Find Out if My Bankruptcy Case is Closed in Washington?
A person who has filed for bankruptcy can create a PACER account to monitor the case’s status. The party may also send an inquiry to the court through the representing attorney or in person.
Can a Bankruptcy Record be Expunged in Washington?
No, there is no provision for the expungement of bankruptcy records under Washington laws or Federal laws. However, there is an option to seal or redact records that contain sensitive and confidential information. Nevertheless, the petitioner must demonstrate the extenuating circumstances before the court can issue an order to seal the record.