New Jersey Court Records Search
Per Rule 1:38-2, New Jersey court records include documents of data, rulings, decisions, statements, transcripts, and recordings created or retained by a court during a case. The New Jersey Open Public Records Act and New Jersey Court Rule 1.38 make court records available to the public unless restricted by law or court order.
A New Jersey court record search lets members of the public obtain records, information, and documents maintained by the courts for personal research or other legal purposes. It can also help one track the progress of a court proceeding, review pending cases, and gather information about a person's court history. The New Jersey judiciary system provides various options through which interested persons can physically and virtually search for court records. Inquirers can retrieve court records using multiple criteria, such as name, birth date, lawsuit number, court record type, and county address.
Are New Jersey Court Records Public?
The New Jersey Open Public Records Act was enacted 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 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 to 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?
When trying to obtain court records in New Jersey, the first step 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 out to access 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 online access. Requestors can request access to any of these court records in the following ways:
- Online access
- Visiting the courthouse to make a request.
New Jersey Court Records Public Access
The J.E.D.S. 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 staff
- 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 victims 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.
How to Obtain New Jersey Court Records in Person
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 Judicial Administrative Records in New Jersey
According to Rule 1:38-5, administrative records are judicial records that 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 and 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 to Conduct a New Jersey Court Record Search by Name
To conduct a court record search by name in New Jersey, the information seeker will need to first determine the county and courthouse responsible for maintaining the desired record. The individual must also have the full name of the parties involved in the case and the presiding judge or attorney that handled the case to ease the search process.
The next step will be to contact the court clerk's office and make use of the search options provided. The New Jersey judiciary system has an online repository through which individuals can look up court records created by the courts in New Jersey by simply inputting party names, docket numbers, or filing dates into the search bar.
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
Obtaining Court records online for free can be challenging as most court online case management systems charge access fees. However, interested individuals can visit the courthouse where the case was heard and make use of the public access terminals provided for free. The inquirer should note that supplementary services rendered by the court staff may come at a cost.
Alternatively, an information seeker can consider using low-cost options, such as PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), which requires a small fee, or other third-party sites to access court records.
What are New Jersey Judgment Records?
New Jersey judgment records are court documents created when the Court arrives at a final decision on a civil dispute or criminal charges. The presiding judge issues an order or decree to this effect, and the court clerk enters the order into the case file as a judgment record.
The creation of this court document typically signifies the end of a court case unless a litigant appeals the Court's decision. In any way, judgment records in New Jersey are available to interested members of the public under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act. Persons who wish to obtain a judgment record must visit the Clerk's office in person, send a mail-in request, or use the online case access portal. Regardless of the chosen method, all requesters must provide the necessary details to facilitate a search for the judgment record of interest. These include the case number, litigants' names, and judgment year. Providing the presiding judge's name also helps narrow down the search.
New Jersey judgment records contain varying information, depending on the case type. The standard information a requester can expect to see in a typical judgment record includes the names of the persons involved in the litigation, a brief description of the civil complaint or criminal charges, the judge's name, as well as the Court's decision or judgment on the case.
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.
Interested members of the public may view or copy records of bankruptcy proceedings as well as writs, contracts, New Jersey liens, and judgments. To obtain these records, the requesting party may be required to provide information to facilitate the record search and pay a nominal fee to cover the cost of copying the document of interest.
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in New Jersey
According to the New Jersey Open Public Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act (F.O.I.A.), bankruptcy filings and proceedings are considered public records and, as such, available to the public unless sealed by a court order.
Interested individuals can find bankruptcy records in New Jersey by submitting requests in person, via mail, an automated voice service, or by querying an online database.
For in-person or mail requests, the information seeker must first find out the county, mailing address, and court location where the case was filed. After verification, the individual can then proceed to submit physically or via mail a written request containing a description of the record sought after, the debtor's name, and case number to help the record keeper find and obtain the bankruptcy record from the court archives.
The inquirer should note that a search fee of $30.00, payable via check or money order, is attached to these requests. Also, the Clerk's office charges $0.50 per page to make copies of the bankruptcy record. Individuals who are not able to afford these fees or need bankruptcy case records for study purposes can apply for a fee exemption.
Another way to find New Jersey bankruptcy records is over the telephone via the Voice Case Information System (V.C.I.S.) by calling (866) 222-8029 toll-free. The inquirer can obtain case information, such as the debtor's name, case number, name of the judge, filing date, type of bankruptcy filed, asset identification, the name of the legal representative, the court-delegated trustee, and the recent case status.
Alternatively, an individual can conduct an online search for bankruptcy records by using an electronic repository like Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system with the debtor name or case number at a service charge of $0.10 per page viewed or document downloaded.
Information seekers are expected to note that courts can only retain bankruptcy records for fifteen (15) years, after which they disseminate these records to the Federal Records Center at the National Archives in compliance with 44 U.S. Code § 3303. Archived bankruptcy records can be obtained online or by contacting the Records Center via email at email@example.com.
Can You Look Up Court Cases in New Jersey?
Yes, a New Jersey court case lookup can be performed using the online resources of the record custodian. 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.
New Jersey Court Case Lookup Exemptions
According to Court Rule 1:38-3, the following court cases are exempted from public access and cannot be looked up except with authorization from a court.
- Internal documents such as notices and decision outlines of Judges or judicial staff
- Reports of criminal and Municipal court trial proceedings
- Medical histories that reveal the psychiatric, psychological, and drug reliance status of an individual
- Documents generated in court proceedings involving minors, including expunged records per N.JS.A 2A, 4A-62(F)
- Classified litigant biodata sheets
- Files from a custody proceeding
- Family violence records and reports
- Reports from a sexual attack or abuse proceeding involving minors, as stated in N.J.S.A. 2A:82-46
- Files recorded in proceedings to resolve the claims of juveniles or persons with a disability
- Family Court processes, such as proceedings relating to divorce, annulments, and marriage dissolution; juvenile custody and support proceedings; and proceedings prohibiting domestic violence and assault.
What is a Court Docket in New Jersey?
A New Jersey court docket is essentially a ledger of events connected to a case or court proceeding. It includes a calendar or plan indicating upcoming court proceedings, filings, and litigations connected to a case. The Clerk of Court is usually the custodian of court dockets as it helps the Court track the progress of the cases resolved per time. Dockets are allocated dockets or case numbers by the Clerk documenting the case to help differentiate one docket from another.
Court dockets typically comprise a docket or case number, year or filing date, the description of the case, the deciding date, the name and location of the Court presiding over the case, the inquiries put forward in the case, and party names. Individuals interested in searching for court dockets can contact the county and courthouse where the case was filed with the party name or docket number to begin the search process.
Types of Courts in New Jersey
The New Jersey Court System is made up of various courts of general or limited jurisdiction to resolve civil and criminal cases. Case resolutions typically begin from the trial courts, which include the municipal and tax courts, and can then progress to other courts in the system, such as the Superior or Supreme Courts. The courts in New Jersey include:
- Federal District Court: This Court has general jurisdiction to decide civil and criminal cases.
- Federal Bankruptcy Court: This Court has jurisdiction to resolve only bankruptcy-related issues.
- The Supreme Court: The state court of last resort and is responsible for handling all appeals transmitted from the appeal court. It supervises the judicial system in the state and ensures that state laws and regulations are obeyed.
- New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division: The intermediate appellate Court hears appeals from the municipal and tax courts and assesses their verdicts.
- New Jersey Municipal Courts: These courts have jurisdiction to preside over municipal law breaches, minor criminal infractions, and traffic and motor vehicle crimes. They are courts with limited jurisdiction.
- New Jersey Tax Court is also a court of limited jurisdiction that resolves cases involving appeals of rulings made by county boards of taxation or the State Division of Taxation
What are Civil Courts 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.
New Jersey small claims court is one of the three courts dedicated to civil cases. The other civil courts include the Landlord/Tenant and the 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.