New Jersey Court Records
Instant Access to State, County and Municipal Records
Are New Jersey Court Records Public?
The New Jersey Open Public Records Act was passed into law in 2002, replacing the pre-existing right-to-know law. According to the act, New Jersey court records are considered public records. The New Jersey Court Rule 1.38 covers the right of public access to the court records. The right of access is not absolute as a court may limit access to court records in certain situations. For example, records that include jury questionnaires, records relating to child sexual abuse victims, search warrants, grand jury proceedings, and most family division records may be inaccessible for public access.
Note that parties and certain authorized persons may be able to gain access to confidential records of the court on request.
How Do I Find Court Records in New Jersey?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in New Jersey is to visit the courthouse where the case was filed and request the record in writing from the court's clerk. Usually, the clerk will provide the records request form for requestors to fill in order to have access to court records. The New Jersey Court website provides locations and phone numbers for the Municipal Courts, Local Courts, County Courts, Tax Court, Superior Court, and the Supreme Court. Court records may be available for public access through paper or via online access. Requestors can request access to any of these court’s records in the following ways:
- Online access
- Visiting the courthouse to make a request.
The JEDS Electronic request portal on the New Jersey courts website provides access to all the state courts' records, websites, and contact information. This enables interested persons to gain remote access to electronic court records over the internet on their computers, smartphones, and tablets. This service usually attracts a nominal fee. Not all court records are available for public access. According to Court Rule 1:38, the following are some exceptions to the general rule of public access:
- Internal records, such as memos and opinion drafts of Judges or judiciary staffs
- Records of criminal and Municipal court proceedings
- Family Court proceedings, including proceedings for legal separation, dissolution, and marriage nullity; child and spousal support proceedings; child custody proceedings; and domestic violence prevention proceedings;
- Medical records including psychiatric, psychological, and drug dependency records
- Records in a juvenile court proceeding, including expunged juvenile records according to the N.JS.A 2A, 4A-62(F)
- Confidential litigant Information sheets.
- Records in a guardianship proceeding;
- Domestic violence records and reports.
- Records in a child victim of sexual assault or abuse proceedings under N.J.S.A. 2A:82-46
- Records in proceedings to settle the claims of a person with a disability or a minor;
Note that requestors that are not parties to the requested records may not have full remote access to some electronic records. Examples include divorce records and records on child victim of sexual assault. In special situations where a case attracts high public interest in a criminal case, the judge may permit remote access to the criminal electronic record, although this is not typical. Usually, requestors for such records would need to visit the courthouses where the case files are held.
In most cases, only the parties to the case, and persons authorized by the parties may access confidential records.
Visiting the courthouse to make a request
Interested persons may visit the courthouse where the case took place to request access to paper or electronic court records. Each court's website provides information on how to access records in each court's location and the fees that apply. Usually, interested persons may request access to any of the following court records:
- Civil Division records.
- General Equity Records under the chancery court division
- Special Civil Part Records
- Criminal Division Records
- Family Division Records
- Municipal Court Records
- Divorce records
How to Request for Judicial Administrative Records in New Jersey
According to Rule 1:38-5, administrative records are judicial records which pertain to the administration of the court. These records are not associated with any particular court case. Interested persons can request copies of judicial and administrative records that the Government records council or Superior Courts of New Jersey maintain. These records include budget and expenditure records, vendor contracts, nonconfidential employee records, Judicial Council program factsheets, legislative reports, and written policies and procedures. Complete the request form and submit it to The Judicial and Electronic documents submission portal. All records requests are submitted via this channel.
Regular requests will be attended to as soon as possible. However, it may be extended to within seven working days. Requestors must provide accurate information on court records requests for the court to facilitate the process faster.
A request usually attracts a nominal fee for staff search, review time, duplication, and production. Additional charges may apply for commercial use requests. Requestors may be required to make payment before the records are duplicated or produced. The council or the court then reviews the request and ascertains whether the requested records can be produced or are exempt from disclosure under New Jersey Court rules The timeframe for production will also be verified.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
How Does New Jersey Courts Work?
The New Jersey court structure comprises three levels: the Supreme Court, Appellate Court Division, and the Superior Courts. Other courts in New Jersey are the Tax Courts, County Courts, and Municipal Courts.
Most cases in New Jersey originate at the Municipal court. The court is considered a court of limited jurisdictions because of its responsibility for minor offenses, such as motor vehicle and parking offenses. Serious cases like robbery start as a complaint at a Municipal Court before it is transferred to a Superior Court. Superior Courts have three divisions, the Appellate court division, the Law And Chancery divisions. The Appellate Court is the intermediate appellate court, while the law and chancery division functions as a Trial Court. Appeals may be taken to the Superior Court's Appellate division from the law and chancery divisions (Trial courts). The Governor appoints judges of the Superior Court to serve an initial tenure of seven years and will serve till 70 years old if reappointed.
Cases from the Superior Courts may be taken to the highest appellate court in the state, the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has seven justices, including the chief justice. The Tax Court hears appeals from decisions made by the county Board of Taxation or decisions made by the Director of the Division of Taxation. The court hears matters regarding state income, salaries, and business taxes. Appeals from the decision of the Tax Court are heard at the Appellate division of the Superior court.
What Are Civil Court and Small Claims in New Jersey?
New Jersey Civil Court cases involve legal disputes between two or more parties. A civil action begins when a party files a complaint, fills the case information statement and pays the court the required filing fee.
Civil cases in which the amount in dispute is over $15,000 are heard in the Civil Division of Superior Court. Cases where the amount in dispute is between $3,000 and $15,000, are heard in the Special Civil Part of the Civil Division. Cases in which the amount in dispute is less than $3,000 also are heard in the Special Civil Part and are known as small claims.
Small Claims in New Jersey
The New Jersey Special Civil Part court handles matters relating to small claims matters in New Jersey. Small Claims court is one of the three courts dedicated to civil cases. The other civil courts include the Landlord/Tenant and Regular Special Civil Part. Small Claims Court handles cases where a sues for not more than $3,000 or $5,000. These are the monetary limits of Small Claims. For claims that the amount in dispute is more than the small claims monetary limits, but less than $15,000, such cases should be filed in the Regular Special Civil Part court. Cases in which the amount is more than $15,000 must be filed in the Civil Part of the Superior Court's Law Division.
Examples of small claims include:
- Breach of a written or oral contract.
- A claim of money used as a down payment.
- Property damage caused by a motor vehicle accident.
- Property damage or personal injury from a car accident;
Note that parties may appeal New Jersey's special civil part court's decision within 45 days of the court's judgment delivery.
What Are Appeals and Court Limits in New Jersey
Individuals may appeal the decision made by a lower court in the Appellate court of New Jersey or the highest appellate court, the Supreme Court. The first step to start an appeal process is to file a Notice of Appeal or a Motion for Leave to File an Appeal.
A Notice of Appeal is filed after a judgment or decision has been entered by the lower court. Contrastingly, a Motion for Leave to File an appeal is filed when the court has not decided judgment. This is known as an interlocutory appeal. An interlocutory appeal is generally disfavoured as it is an unusual type of appeal. Usually, these appeals are accepted by the appellate court if the issue is dispositive to the entire case. For example, if the trial court rules on certain evidence's admissibility during the case, one of the parties decides to counter such decisions. Filing either notice of appeal or motion for leave to appeal is necessary. It notifies the Appellate Court and the opposing parties of an appellant's intentions to have the Appellate court review the trial court's decisions for errors of law.
The time limit for filing a Notice of Appeal in the New Jersey Appellate division court is within 45 days after a trial court clerk delivers the appellant a copy of the judgment stamped "Filed," or a notice that the judgment has been entered in their case. The time limit for filing an interlocutory appeal is within 20 days of the trial court's order being questioned by the appellant.
The appellant is required to file a Notice of Appeal with the Appellate Civil Case Information statement or Criminal case information statement and pay the filing fees. The following documents must also be included when filing for an appeal:
- Transcript request form This is a request for the written record of the trial court proceedings. This will help the Appellate Judge to know what was discussed in the former court.
- The Appellant Brief and Appendix - This is due within 45 days from the filing of the Notice of Appeal appeal in the appellate division (for both civil and criminal cases). The respondent to the appeal must file a brief and appendix within 30days after receiving the appellant's brief and a notice of appeal.
- Oral Argument - Oral Arguments are made on request only because the court will not want parties to repeat the same arguments already made in the briefs filed. Requests for oral argument are made to the clerk's office parties by filing a paper requesting argument no later than 14 days after the respondent's brief service. Here is a chance for the appellant to further explain the arguments stated in their brief to the appellate court.
When filing a Notice of Appeal, the filing fee required is $250 and $450 for filing a Motion for leave to appeal. Note that the filing fee may be waived if the appellant was declared indigency in trial court proceedings. For the waiver to apply, a copy of the order and an affidavit stating nothing has changed in their financial status must first be submitted with the notice of appeal.
What are New Jersey Bankruptcy Records?
The New Jersey Bankruptcy Records database contains financial information about individuals and businesses who have initiated a bankruptcy judicial proceeding. In New Jersey, debtors who cannot afford the services of an attorney to submit their bankruptcy package electronically may qualify for free legal services. The Court’s website contains information on the States’ pro bono legal services. Notably, a petitioner must undergo credit counseling before filing for bankruptcy. The Court maintains a list of counseling agencies that are accredited.
How Do I Find My Case Number in New Jersey?
For every court case in New Jersey, there is an assigned case number used to determine the year the case was filed, the judicial officer to whom it is assigned, and the county where it was filed. To find a case number in New Jersey, interested persons may search via the New Jersey Court website and click on the ecourts case jacket portal. A case number search may be carried out by selecting the county where the case took and searching with the party's name.
Can You Look up Court Cases in New Jersey?
Yes, court records for certain court cases may be accessed in New Jersey. However, the public cannot look up cases with confidential information such as cases involving child victims of sexual abuse or records declared confidential by a judge. Interested persons can look up cases remotely via the online portals provided on their local court's website or may also visit the courthouse in person to access these records. For example, to search for court cases in the Municipal Court, interested persons may search using the Municipal Court case search. Note that the person must have at least the names of parties involved in the case or the ticket number to perform a search. This service is provided free of charge.
Does New Jersey Hold Remote Trials?
Yes, New Jersey Courts hold remote trials. In November 2020, the New Jersey Supreme court suspended all physical civil and criminal jury trials due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The court provides the parties and counsel conducting remote court trials with information on how to join the video conferencing.
Note that some cases require the parties to agree to remote proceedings before it can be conducted, while all other cases can be heard remotely with or without the parties' agreement.
What Is the New Jersey Supreme Court?
The New Jersey Supreme Court is the highest Appellate court in the state, which means that it has the final judicial authority on all state's justice system cases. The Supreme Court does not have original jurisdiction; it only hears cases of appeal from the Appellate court. The Supreme Court is authorized to review decisions of the state's Appellate Court division and, on rare occasions, cases from other court's judicial and administrative systems. The court has the authority to amend the court rules and regulate the practice of law. Regular sessions of the Supreme Court are conducted in Trenton, New Jersey.
New Jersey Courts of Appeals
The Appellate Court Division in New Jersey is the state's intermediate appellate court. It is below the Supreme Court. The court hears cases from the Trial Courts, the Tax Court, and State administrative agencies.
The Appellate Court is divided into eight parts, with four to five Judges assigned to each. The Appellate Division judges hold chambers in Atlantic City, Hackensack, Jersey City, Morristown, New Brunswick, Newark, Trenton, West Long Branch, and Westmont. The court holds sessions in Trenton, Morristown, and Hackensack.
New Jersey Superior Courts
The Superior Courts in New Jersey consist of three divisions, the Appellate, Law, and Chancery divisions. The Law and Chancery divisions are the trial courts, while the Appellate Court is the appeal court. The trial courts operate at the local level under the direct local supervision of a Deputy Clerk of Superior Court. Superior Court rulings may be appealed to the appellate court division.
Each division in the Superior Court is divided into various parts. The law division and chancery division of the Superior Court are the principal trial courts of New Jersey. They are located within the court's various judicial geographic units, called 'vicinages.'
Most Superior Courts have units dedicated to handling probate, juvenile, family, small claims, mental health, and traffic cases. These Courts also have specialty departments that specialize in handling non-violent drug offenses and domestic violence cases.