Access to Court Records
ACCESS TO COURT RECORDS BROCHURE
INTRODUCTION: This brochure will assist you in understanding how to access court
records and the restrictions on access. This is a guide and not a legal document. For more
details, please consult the statutes and court rules listed at the end of this brochure.
- What records are considered court records?
Court records include any document, information, exhibit, or other thing that is
maintained by a court in connection with a judicial proceeding and any information in a
case management system created or prepared by the court that is related to a judicial
proceeding. Examples of court records are: an index, calendar, docket, order, decree,
judgment, or minute entry in a courtroom proceeding.
What court records can the public access?
All court records are open to the public except as restricted by federal law, state law,
court rule, court order, or case law..
- What records are not available to the public?
What kinds of records are not available to the public?
Some categories of court records the public cannot access include:
• Adoption records
• Mental illness commitment records
• Alcohol and drug treatment commitment records
• Paternity records (except final orders)
• Confidential name change records
• Juvenile non-offender records (Juvenile Dependency, Truancy, At-Risk Youth,
Child In Need of Services, Termination of Parental Rights, and Developmental
• Court records sealed by judicial order
- What happens when the court orders a document or case sealed?
The public cannot view or copy sealed documents or sealed case records. However,
records showing the existence of the sealed documents or cases are available to the public
unless specifically restricted by statute.
- Is there a rule that governs access to court records in courts of limited jurisdiction (district and municipal courts)?
Yes. GR 31
- Is information about jurors available to the public?
Yes, the names of jurors are available to the public. All other information is considered
confidential. If additional information about jurors is desired, the person requesting the
information would need to petition the trial court and show good cause why further
information should be disclosed.
- How can I view a court record of obtain a copy of a court record?
Court records – i.e., documents – in case files are maintained by court administration for
district and municipal courts, by the county clerk for superior court, and by the clerk for
appellate (Supreme Court and Court of Appeals) court. The procedure for requesting
access to a court record in a case file or a copy of a court record varies from court to
court. Visit the Washington State Courts’ website – www.courts.wa.gov - for a court directory
with addresses and telephone numbers and for links to local court websites.
- Can I access court records online?
Some courts have computer systems that allow access to court records online. Check with
the court where the record was filed to determine if they have online access.
- Can I go to my local court and look at court records from another court?
No, a court can provide access only to its records. (But statewide access to case
management records in the Judicial Information System for all courts is available; for
information on this system, see the next question).
- Can I access records in court case management systems?
The Administrative Office of the Courts maintains a statewide case management system called the Judicial Information System (JIS). (The JIS does not maintain actual court documents.) Many Washington State courts have a public access terminal in the courthouse where you can view JIS public record case information such as an index of filed cases and a list of documents filed in each case. Contact your local court to see if they have a public access terminal. You can also access the JIS by subscribing to a service called JIS-Link which provides a public access version of the system’s screens. For more information about JIS-Link, visit the JIS-Link page or contact the Administrative Office of the Courts.
In addition to the JIS, some local courts maintain case management information systems themselves. For information on these systems and access to them, contact the local court.
- Are there fees for looking at and copying court records?
There is no fee to view a court document at the courthouse but, as permitted by law,
many courts charge fees to copy a document. Also, if remote electronic access is
available, the court may charge a fee for remote access to a court document. There are
fees for subscribing to and using JIS-Link.
- Can I obtain court records in bulk?
Yes, subject to certain limitations. You will need to enter into a dissemination contract.
Contact the court of record to learn more about its local policies and procedures, or the
Administrative Office of the Courts for information on obtaining records from the
Judicial Information System.
- What laws and rule govern access to court records?
There are many statutes and court rules that govern access to court records. Here is a list
of the most common ones:
• Adoptions - RCW 26.33.330
• Chemical Dependency Commitment - RCW 70.96A.150
• Confidential Name Changes - RCW 4.24.130(5)
• Juvenile Non-Offender Records - RCW 13.50.100
• Juvenile Offender Records - RCW 13.50.050
• Mental Illness Commitment - RCW 71.05.620
• Mental Illness Commitment of Minors - RCW 71.34.210
• Paternity - RCW 26.26.610(2)
• GR 15 – Destruction, Sealing, and Redaction of Court Records
• GR 22 - Access to Family Law and Guardianship Court Records
• GR 31 - Access to Court Records
• CrRLJ 8.10 - Closure of Proceedings and Sealing of Records (courts of limited
• CrRLJ 8.11 - Disclosure of Records (courts of limited jurisdiction)
- What other publications or resources are available?
- Am I able to obtain court recordings?