Are Connecticut Court Records Public?
The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act guarantees public access to all government records unless they are confidential. Records kept by the local or state government in the state can be accessed by interested persons, provided such records contain information relating to the public. Consequently, court records are available for public access, review, and copying, except such records, are exempted from public disclosure. For instance, court records of juvenile matters are confidential, although with some exceptions. C.G.S. 46B-124 states that the information of a juvenile case regarding delinquency proceedings or any part thereof shall be available to the victim of the crime committed by such a minor. The record availability shall be to the same extent as the record of a defendant case in a criminal proceeding in the regular criminal docket would be available.
When a court seals a record, the parts of the documents ordered sealed by the judge will be unavailable for disclosure. However, some portions of a court record will continue to be available for public access if such a file is only partially sealed. Any document sealed by the court will become accessible once the sealing order expires.
The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act was first enacted in 1975. According to the law, anyone may request public records, including court records, without a statement of purpose. There are also no restrictions on how individuals use public records once obtained. Some exemptions to the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act are:
- Trade Secrets
- Records of law enforcement agencies that have the potential of putting victims in danger
- Information that may compromise the security of any individual or entity
- Individuals home addresses
- Adoption records
- Any record, such as medical or personnel files the revealing of which may constitute an infringement of personal privacy
- Financial information and statements of personal worth
How Do I Find Court Records in Connecticut?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Connecticut is to know the court keeping such records. Also, requestors must have the required data to help them initiate the search online using the website designed by the Connecticut Judicial Branch. The website is provided as a public service to facilitate the ease of finding records of cases filed after January 1, 1991, at the Supreme Court, Appellate Court, and Probate Court. However, this website may not provide case information about juvenile delinquents because it is confidential under Connecticut law. It also may not disclose parties' identifying information. Any court record not revealed using the website will be available at the local courthouses where they were filed and heard. Interested persons can obtain records of the Supreme Court and the Appellate Court online using the following options:
Search By Case Name
Interested persons can search court records with case names (if known) using the Case Name Search. To do this, enter the partial or complete case name correctly in the Case Name field. Move to the Court drop-down box and select either the Supreme Court or Appellate Court to moderate the search or choose "Both" for a broader search. Knowing the date range will equally narrow the query, but requestors may leave the field empty to search the entire database. Hit the search button once done to display records related to the data supplied.
Search By Party Name
To find court records in the Supreme Court or Appellate Court using the Party Name Search, interested persons should input the party's name in the Party Name box. The party names may be entered in full or partly, but with the right spelling. Select the court type from the Court pull-down menu, choose the status of the case from the Status box, and then click submit.
Search By Docket Number
Individuals who know the docket numbers of the court records they seek from the Superior Court or the Appellate Court can use the Docket Number Search. The Supreme and Appellate Court docket numbers are a 5-digit number. Select the court type from the Court field and then click the search button.
Search By Attorney
The Anthony Search option allows interested persons to find records of the Supreme Court and the Appellate Court using either the Juris number or the Attorney name. A Juris number is a six-digit number. However, in a case where requestors do not know this number, they may check the Attorney radio button and input the partial or complete name correctly. Select the court type, case status, and the case file date from their respective fields, and then click the search button.
The Connecticut Judicial Branch created an online database of the Connecticut Probate Court records. To use this, interested parties should select the case type and district from the Case Type and District drop-down menus, respectively. They should also input the party's last and first names, choose the case status, and then hit the search button. Note that this portal contains Probate Court records from January 5, 2011, to date. Any search result displaying cases before 2011 may be sketchy.
Instructions on finding other forms of court records in Connecticut are on the Connecticut Judicial Branch website. Persons who seek to obtain certified copies of court records should contact the local courthouses where such files are kept and inquire about the action steps. Copying and certifying court records at court locations often attract some nominal fees. For instance, a charge of $3 per page applies to obtaining copies of court records and an additional payment of $1 per page for expedited copies.
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 Do Connecticut Courts work?
Connecticut courts are one of the three branches of government and are referred to as the Judicial Branch. The courts have a duty of interpreting and upholding Connecticut laws in many ways. They resolve disputes touching on personal or civil rights and interpret laws' constitutional provisions. Connecticut courts also determine the innocence or guilt of accused persons and ascertain if any law violates the state's Constitution or the Constitution of the United States. The state-operated courts handle the majority of criminal cases and various civil lawsuits. Connecticut courts consist of the Supreme Court, Appellate Court, Superior Court, and the Probate Court.
The highest court in Connecticut is the Supreme Court. It is not a trial court and, as such, does not receive evidence or hear testimony by witnesses. The Supreme Court's primary responsibility is to review any decision made in the Superior Court and fish out errors committed by judges. It sometimes examines judgments from the Appellate Court cases to ensure the correct application of the law. There are seven justices of the Connecticut Superior Court, one Chief Justice, and six associate justices. Typically, a panel of five justices sits to hear and make decisions on cases appealed to the court. The Supreme Court may assign to the Appellate Court any lawsuit pending before it unless such matter is under its original jurisdiction.
The Appellate Court consists of nine judges. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appoints one out of the judges to serve as the Appellate Court Chief Judge. Similar to the Supreme Court, the Appellate Court does not hear witnesses or request evidence. It reviews decisions made in the Superior Court and makes its own decision based upon oral argument and briefs. In short, the Appellate Court reviews and determines if the Superior Court committed errors of law in its decision.
The Superior Court is a trial court with four major divisions. They are the Civil Division, Family Division, Housing Division, and the Criminal Division. Each of them handles diverse cases, but generally, the Superior Court hears most legal disputes in the state, save those over which the Probate Court has original jurisdiction.
Each Connecticut Probate Court has one judge who is elected to serve for four years. The court has the exclusive authority to hear cases of adoptions, estates of minors, and estates of deceased persons. Others include trusts, conservators, guardians of persons, and commitment of the mentally ill cases.
What are Civil Court and Small Claims in Connecticut?
The Civil Division of the Superior Court primarily hears cases in which the parties seek to protect personal, civil and property rights. Small claims can be used in Connecticut if the petitioner is suing for $5,000 or less. Note that this amount is not fixed and may change at intervals as decided by state law. Although Magistrates are responsible for hearing and deciding small claims cases, there are instances when judges hear such proceedings. Parties involved in small claims cases are not required to hire attorneys for prosecution or defense.
Connecticut Small Claims Courts are designed such that anyone can handle their legal matters from the beginning of a trial to the end. There are no jury trials in small claims. Defendants may, however, file motions to transfer their cases to regular dockets and then request jury trials. Any ruling made in a Small Claim Court cannot be appealed. The types of cases that can be filed in small claims court include:
- Unpaid claims
- Hospital bills for medical treatment
- Return of wrongfully withheld security deposits
- Car accidents
- Breach of agreement (verbal or written)
- Damaged property
- Delinquent rent
A person who files a small claims case, known as the plaintiff, must serve the lawsuit to persons being sued, otherwise called the defendants. The filing fee of a small claims case in Connecticut is $95, payable to check, money order, or cash to the Clerk of the Superior Court. A plaintiff can also pay in person using Visa or Mastercard. An individual or a business who intends to file a small claims case should complete the form JD-CV-40 to start with and submit it at the court designated by the Chief Court Administrator. A plaintiff may equally file small claims dispute electronically. When filing a small claims case, make sure to use the defendant's exact and complete personal or business names. The Small Claims Court does not make collections for plaintiffs but can issue an execution to allow them to use state marshals to collect their money.
What are Appeals and Court Limits in Connecticut?
Anyone in Connecticut has the right to request a higher court to review the decision made by a lower court in a process known as an appeal. The only person that may file an appeal is a party who is legally harmed or aggrieved by the decision of a court. The party who is bringing the request for appeal is the appellant, while other parties who have not joined in the petition are known as appellees.
Court decisions in criminal and civil cases are subject to further review in appellate courts. Small claims disputes cannot be challenged anywhere once the magistrate rules. The Probate Court decisions are appealable to the Superior Court in the same location as the Probate Court. The Appellate Court reviews cases for errors that may have been committed by lower courts while making decisions. Generally, most cases in Connecticut are appealed to the Appellate Court. There are, however, some specific cases that are appealable directly to the Supreme Court. The Connecticut Supreme Court has the final decision on matters of state law. A dissatisfied party at the Appellate Court may petition the Connecticut Supreme Court to examine the lower court ruling. Note that review by the Supreme Court is discretionary.
The appellate law in Connecticut is time-dependent. Parties in a legal dispute may not be able to file an appeal if so much time has passed after a court judgment. Depending on the type of case, the time limit for filing appeals to the Superior Court from the Probate Court in Connecticut is either 30 or 45 days. Appellants must file their petitions with the Appellate Court under 20 days after trial court rulings. However, if the time to appeal a case has passed, an appellant may file a motion to reopen it within 120 days, but under the right circumstance. This is most especially feasible where new evidence emerges for a judgment passed by error or obtained by fraud.
What Are Connecticut Judgment Records?
Connecticut judgment records are documents created when the court arrives at a decision on a case filed in its jurisdiction. This decision becomes binding when the court enters it into the case record, also signifying the end of most court cases unless a party pursues an appeal. The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act makes judgment records public records available to interested members of the public.
Persons who wish to obtain Connecticut judgment records must visit the clerk’s office in the court where the case was adjudicated. Case information is also available on the Connecticut Case Lookup portal. In any way, both in-person and online searches require the litigants’ names, docket numbers, or attorneys’ names to retrieve the judgment record from the case file. Furthermore, the requester must pay court fees for searching and making copies of the judgment record.
The information contained in Connecticut judgment records varies with case type. A typical judgment record contains the litigants’ names, the judge’s name, and judgment date. Persons who obtain judgment records can also expect to see the litigants’ claims and the court’s decision per claim or complaint.
What are Connecticut Bankruptcy Records?
Connecticut Bankruptcy Records are detailed financial records of individuals and business entities that file for bankruptcy in the state due to their inability to meet their financial obligations to creditors. The Bankruptcy Court for the District of Connecticut has three divisional offices in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport. Due to the challenging circumstances created by COVID-19, the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Connecticut has issued many General Orders and Guidance addressing the Court’s operations. Since March 12, 2020, most conferences and non-evidentiary hearings have been conducted through telephone or remote technology. The Court provides participants and attendees with instructions, information, and best practices for appearing remotely before the Court via video or phone.
Interested members of the public may access bankruptcy records alongside related records such as Connecticut Liens, judgments, writs and contracts from the office of the county clerk or the clerk of courts in the judicial district where the petition was originally filed.
How Do I Find My Case Number in Connecticut?
A case number is also known as a docket number. It is a case's unique identifying number that differentiates a lawsuit from another and helps track court proceedings as they make their way through the court system. A court clerk is responsible for allocating case numbers in Connecticut courts at the point of filing new lawsuits. Case numbers in Connecticut are useful in finding or ordering copies of court records.
To find a case number in Connecticut, an interested person must first identify the court where the case is being heard. The Connecticut Judicial Branch created an online public service platform on which residents can find docket numbers. Depending on the courts handling the proceedings of interest, interested individuals may search the portal for case numbers using the parties' names. It provides case information for cases being heard at the Supreme, Appellate, and Superior Courts. The portal also returns information on civil, family, housing, and small claims cases. The various court locations across the state can equally retrieve case numbers at the request of interested persons but may come at a fee.
Can You Look Up Court Cases in Connecticut?
Yes, interested persons can look up court cases in Connecticut. They can do so by using the Case Look-up page of the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch. The Case Look-Up website is updated daily but may not display information on confidential cases per Connecticut law. It is also a user-friendly website. Interested persons can look up court cases holding at the Supreme Court, Appellate Court, and the Superior Court. Court case lookup is available for Probate Court cases on the Connecticut Probate Court Case Lookup page.
For cases at the Supreme and Appellate Courts, use:
- By Case Name, if the name of the case is known.
- By Docket Number, if the case number is known.
- By Party Name, if the party's name is known.
- By Attorney Name, if the name of the case attorney is known.
- By Trial Court Docket Number, for a known trial court number.
Requestors can also look up court cases of interest at the county court locations where they are being tried.
Does Connecticut Hold Remote Trials?
Connecticut courts had adopted Cisco video conferencing software long before the coronavirus pandemic outbreak in conducting remote hearings with certain prison inmates. Virtual trials in Connecticut have a significant impact on cost reduction in moving inmates to and from the courts. It also eliminates the dangers associated with such movement. However, in the wake of COVID-19, the Connecticut Judicial Branch moved to employ Microsoft Teams, online audio and video conferencing software in conducting court hearings. Persons who want to participate in remote trials in the state must install the Microsoft Teams software on any internet-enabled device of their choice (computers or mobile devices). Interested individuals can access virtual hearings at the Connecticut Supreme Court on the court's YouTube Channel.
Remote hearing is convenient, and many judges in Connecticut are beginning to clamor for it to remain even after the pandemic. It helps deal with a higher number of cases in a shorter time. Some judges equally believe that this method of court trials is preferable to in-person hearings in many ways that stretch beyond public health concerns. Although courts are under pressure to resume jury trials, they have remained on hold in many parts of the state due to the rising coronavirus rates. Further information on COVID-19 related remote hearings is available on a webpage developed by the Connecticut Judicial Branch.
What is the Connecticut Supreme Court?
The Connecticut Supreme Court reviews rulings made in the Superior Court for errors in the application of the law. It is the state's highest court and was established in 1784. There are seven justices in the Supreme Court, one of whom serves as the Chief Justice. These justices sit in Hartford. They may hear a case in what is known as en banc review, but the court often hears cases as a panel of five justices. The Supreme Court does not receive evidence or hear witnesses in deciding on an appealed case. The Supreme Court will usually not hear an appeal until the Appellate Court reviews it. There are exceptions, however. Lawsuits challenging the legality of a state law or criminal conviction that carries a death sentence can be appealed directly to the Supreme Court.
Connecticut Appellate Court?
The Appellate Court has nine judges, one of whom is appointed by the Chief Justice as the Chief Judge. Also, judges who are qualified and are at least 70 may choose to take senior status and remain members of the Appellate Court. The court reviews decisions made in the Superior Court to determine if errors of law were committed in their rulings. The Appellate Court makes its decision based on the record, briefs, and oral argument presented to it. Three judges hear and decide any case appealed to the Appellate Court case. However, there are occasions when the nine judges may sit en banc to make decisions. This usually happens in legal matters of high public interest.
Connecticut Superior Court?
Probate Court matters are usually appealed to the Connecticut Superior Court. The court is a trial court and hears most cases in the state. It, however, does not try legal matters that are under the purview of the Probate Court. The judicial district court locations hear major criminal cases, civil disputes, and family cases not involving juveniles. Juvenile cases typically are tried at juvenile court locations. There are four trial divisions of the Superior Court. These are:
- Housing Division - This division handles cases involving housing in special housing sessions in the Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford-Norwalk, and Waterbury judicial districts. Housing cases are part of the usual proceedings in all other judicial districts.
- Criminal Division - The criminal division hears criminal cases such as misdemeanors, felonies, violations, and infractions. Any criminal offense is an attack against the state.
- Family Division - This division of the Superior Court handles cases such as marriage dissolution, family support, child custody, and relief from abuse, and most juvenile matters.
- Civil Division - Cases heard by the civil division include landlord-tenant disputes, automobile or personal accidents, product or professional liability suits, and contract disputes.
Connecticut Probate Court?
The Connecticut Probate Court is a trial court. It handles legal matters relating to estates of deceased persons, adoptions, guardians of the persons, trusts, and estates of minors. They are mostly located in municipal buildings such as city and town halls. Connecticut has 54 Probate Court districts and six Regional Children’s Probate Courts.