Are Indiana Court Records Public?
The Indiana Access to Public Records Act is the state’s freedom of information law. This act was enacted in 1983, and it grants all members of the access to public records in Indiana. As defined by this law, a public record is any documented information created, received, retained, maintained, or filed by or with a public agency.
How Do I Find Court Records in Indiana?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Indiana is identifying the type of record required and the court where that record is located. After this, contact the court's record custodian. For instance, the record custodian for Indiana's Appellate Courts is the Clerk of the Appellate Courts, and this clerk can be contacted at:
200 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: (317) 232-1930 (Main Office)
Phone: (317) 232-7225 (Records Division)
Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Mondays to Fridays
Court records for the Trial Courts in the Indiana judicial system are maintained by the respective offices of the Clerks of Court, where the records are located. Contact information for these offices can be gotten from the state judiciary’s online court directory.
Record custodians typically require certain information from the person that wishes to access the record. This information is necessary to facilitate a record search, and it usually includes details of the case like the case number and the names of the parties involved in the case. Requesters may also be required to provide a valid form of identification and pay a fee before obtaining copies of court records. Copies of Indiana court records typically cost $1 per page, while certified copies cost $2 per page. Requests for records can be made in person or in writing via mail-in. Some Indiana court records can also be accessed online through the state judiciary's Case Search portal.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through traditional government sources and 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. 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 compared to government sources.
How Do Indiana Courts Work?
Indiana’s judicial system consists of six different types of Trial Courts. These are the Circuit Courts, the Superior Courts, the St. Joseph Probate Court, the Marion County Small Claims Courts, the Town Courts, and the City Courts. Indiana also has three Appellate Courts: the Indiana Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals of Indiana, and the Indiana Tax Court.
Cases filed in the Indiana judicial system begins at any of the trial courts. These courts usually hear the type of cases that fall within their various jurisdictions. However, the Circuit and Superior Courts have general jurisdiction over all kinds of cases. Trial Courts usually involve witnesses, testimonies, and evidence, and all these are considered before a judgment is rendered. Individuals involved in matters heard in any Indiana Trial Court have the right to file an appeal on the decision rendered in the case if they are unsatisfied.
Appeals from Trial Courts are mostly filed with the Court of Appeals of Indiana. However, appeals from matters that involve taxes, state tax laws, certain state agencies like the Indiana Board of Tax Review and the Indiana Department of State Revenue are filed with the Indiana Tax Court. Appealing parties are not allowed to present any new testimony, evidence, or witnesses in Appellate Courts. Instead, these parties submit briefs and are also allowed to present oral arguments in some cases. The Appellate Courts consider these briefs, oral arguments and review the Trial Courts’ case records before issuing a decision. Decisions rendered by the Court of Appeals of Indiana and the Indiana Tax Court can be appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The Indiana Supreme Court is the highest in the state’s judicial system, and it is the state’s court of last resort. This means that any decisions it reaches concerning a case brought before it is considered final. The Indiana Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over all cases filed in the State of Indiana. The court’s decisions can only be further appealed at the United States Supreme Court. Note that this only happens in matters that involve federal law or the United States Constitution.
Courts in the Indiana judicial system are presided over by justices and judges. These justices and judges must meet specific qualifications, including being admitted to practice law in the state and being residents of the county where the court is located.
The Indiana Supreme Court consists of five justices. The Court of Appeals of Indiana consists of 15 judges, and a single judge presides over the Indiana Tax Court. Justices and judges of the Appellate Courts are appointed through a selection process. When there is a vacancy in any of these courts, the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission accepts applications from qualified individuals and nominates the three applicants that it feels are the most qualified. The names of these candidates are forwarded to the State Governor, who then selects one to fill the vacancy. Newly appointed Appellate Court justices and judges serve an initial term of two years, after which they are required to stand for a retention election. Justices and judges that are retained serve ten-year terms.
Judges in the Trial Courts are typically appointed through partisan elections. However, some counties like Vanderburgh County appoint judges through non-partisan elections. At the same time, Lake County and St. Joseph County utilize a selection process similar to the one used in appointing Appellate Court justices and judges. Circuit, Superior, and St. Joseph County Probate Court judges serve six-year terms while City, Town, and Marion County Small Claims Courts judges serve four-year terms.
What Are Civil Courts and Small Claims in Indiana?
In the Indiana judicial system, civil matters, including small claims, generally fall under the Circuit Courts and the Superior Courts’ jurisdiction. Generally, Indiana Small Claims Courts handle civil matters where the amount in controversy is not more than $6,000. However, the Marion County Small Claims Courts handle civil matters that involve up to $8,000. Marion County is the only county in the state that has separate small claims courts.
Some City Courts and Town Courts are also statutorily authorized to handle small claims matters. The jurisdiction of these courts in small claims matters depends on the population of the area where the court is located:
- City Courts located in the five cities that have the largest population in counties inhabited by 400,001 – 699,999 people can handle small claims of up to $6,000
- Town Courts located in the largest town in counties inhabited by more than 400,000 people but less than 700,000 people can handle small claims of up to $6,000
- City Courts located in a city that is not a county seat and has a population of less than 35,000 can handle small claims matters that do not involve more than $3,000
- City Courts located in cities that have a population of more than 10,500 but less than 11,000 can handle small claims matters where the amount in controversy is not more than $1,500
Note that City Courts have no jurisdiction over any civil action that involves libel, slander, foreclosures of real estate mortgages that involve the title to the real estate, matters involving the estate of a deceased person, and actions in equity.
The Indiana Tax Court is an Appellate Court. Nevertheless, it maintains a small claims docket with original jurisdiction over refund claims from the Indiana Department of Revenue of less than $5,000.
Small claims matters are usually less formal and less expensive than other civil matters filed, and they do not require an attorney’s presence. Generally, parties that wish to file a small claims matter in the State of Indiana must do so within a particular time frame after the incident occurred. Cases involving personal injuries, property damage, and unwritten employment contracts should be filed within two years. Matters involving contracts for sales of goods should be filed within four years, and matters involving rental disputes, recovery of property, and unwritten contracts should be filed within six years.
What Are Appeals and Court Limits in Indiana?
An appeal in the Indiana judicial system involves an Appellate Court reviewing a case heard in a Trial Court or an administrative agency. An appeal can be initiated by any of the parties involved in the case.
The appellate process in the State of Indiana begins after a Trial Court or an administrative agency issues a judgment. Indiana Town Courts and City Courts are not courts of records; therefore, parties that wish to appeal decisions rendered in these courts must do so at either a Circuit or Superior Court. Appeals from probate matters filed in Town and City Courts located in St. Joseph County can also be appealed to the St. Joseph County Probate Court. Note that these appeal cases from Town and City Courts are tried afresh in the higher Trial Courts.
Appellate Courts do not conduct new trials. Instead, these courts review the Trial Court proceedings or the agency where the case was handled to determine whether an error may have occurred and if the error was significant enough to affect the decision reached in the matter.
The Indiana Court of Appeals has original jurisdiction over most appeals from Indiana Trial Courts and administrative agencies’ decisions. This court does not have discretionary jurisdiction. This means that the Court of Appeals of Indiana must accept all appeals made to it except for cases that fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the other Appellate Courts, such as tax-related matters and cases involving the death penalty. The Court of Appeals of Indiana consists of 15 judges that sit in rotating three-judge panels, and cases are randomly assigned to these panels. The Court of Appeals of Indiana does not accept new evidence or testimony when reviewing cases. Instead, the appealing parties submit briefs and present oral arguments.
The Indiana Tax Court has exclusive jurisdiction over tax-related matters. This includes initial appeals of final determinations made by the Indiana Department of State Revenue and the Indiana Board of Tax Review, appeals from inheritance tax determinations, appeals from the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, and appeals from final determinations of assessed value made by the state’s Board of Tax Commissioners. The Indiana Tax Court has a single judge that reviews the proceedings of administrative agencies to determine the following:
- If the final determination made by the agency is based on substantial and reliable evidence
- If the final determination made by the agency is following proper procedures
- If the final determination made by the agency violates any legal, statutory, or constitutional principles
- If the final determination made by the agency is capricious, arbitrary, or an abuse of discretion
Before the Indiana Tax Court renders its decision on a case, it may allow the appealing parties to present oral arguments. In cases that involve the Indiana Department of State Revenue, the court may also accept admissible evidence.
When a decision is issued by the Court of Appeals of Indiana or the Indiana Tax Court, this decision can be further appealed at the Indiana Supreme Court by filing a transfer petition.
The Indiana Supreme Court is the highest court in the state's judicial system, and it is considered the final authority on all judicial matters. Except for cases concerning the United States Constitution and federal law, the Indiana Supreme Court’s decisions cannot be appealed any further. The Indiana Supreme Court consists of five justices, and it has the authority to accept or deny most cases that are brought before it. However, certain matters are automatically appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court from the Trial Courts, and they include:
- Cases that involve the death penalty
- Cases where a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was issued
- Cases where a statute was declared unconstitutional
- Cases involving attorney discipline
- Cases that involve the waiver of parental consent to an abortion
- Cases that involve a lower court issuing an order mandating funds
Like the Court of Appeals of Indiana, the state Supreme Court does not consider new evidence, witnesses, or testimony. When a petition to transfer a case for appeal is brought before the court, the justices review the documents submitted with the petition. These documents usually include records from the Trial Courts and the intermediate Appellate Courts and briefs prepared by the appealing parties. The Indiana Supreme Court may also allow appealing parties to present oral arguments. After the documents have been reviewed and any oral arguments have been presented, the justices vote on whether or not to grant the petition. A concurring vote by at least three justices is required before the Indiana Supreme Court can either grant or deny a petition to transfer. If the petition is denied, then the decision of the intermediate Appellate Court is considered final. However, if the petition is granted, a justice is selected to draft an opinion on the case. The rest of the justices then read and vote on each part of the opinion, and the court publishes a final decision. Note that the losing party in a death penalty case may file a petition to rehearse the case.
Parties that wish to appeal decisions rendered by Indiana courts must do so before the expiration of the approved time limit:
- Appeals from decisions issued by Trial Courts must be done within 30 days.
- Appeals from final determinations made by the Indiana Board of Tax Review or the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance must be made within 45 days.
- Appeals from final determinations contained in a letter of findings issued by the Indiana Department of State Revenue must be made within 180 days. If the tax was paid, and a claim for a refund was filed and denied, then the appeal must be made not later than 90 days after the denial.
- Appeals from final decisions issued by the Court of Appeals of Indiana must be done within 30 days.
What Are Indiana Judgment Records?
Judgment records in Indiana show the adjudication of a criminal or civil case filed in a court of competent jurisdiction in the state. The court’s decision, issued in the form of an order or a declaration of legal rights and responsibilities, becomes binding when the clerk documents it. This documentation also creates a judgment record available to the public per the Indiana Access To Public Records Act.
Persons who wish to obtain judgment records in Indiana must identify the record custodian and provide the necessary details to facilitate a search. Furthermore, the individual must prepare to cover the associated court fees. Armed with this information, the individual may visit the clerk’s office in the court where the case was adjudicated. Generally, this court is located in the county where the defendant lives or where the incident happened.
Once there, the requester must provide the information needed to identify the court record, such as case number, litigants’ names, and the year of judgment. The administrative fees that courts charge cover the labor cost of searching and making copies of the documents sought. Most courts accept cash, money orders, certified checks, and credit cards for these fees.
While Indiana judgment records contain information that reflects the case type, there are similarities. A typical judgment record contains:
- The litigants’ names.
- The judge’s name.
- The specific claims of the parties involved.
- The issued judgment.
What are Indiana Bankruptcy Records?
Indiana bankruptcy records provide details on cases filed with the Southern or Northern Federal Bankruptcy Courts in Indiana. Bankruptcy records are open to the public, except where protected by law or a court order. Anyone may have legal access to these records for various reasons. Records may contain information about the person, business, or company that files for bankruptcy, including the debtor's income, source(s) of income assets, debts owed, and amounts for each creditor.
Bankruptcy records and associated recordings such as writs, contracts, and Indiana liens are deemed public information unless otherwise stated by a judicial order. Interested persons may obtain these documents by querying the relevant government agency.
How Do I Find My Case Number in Indiana?
A case number is a combination of letters and numbers assigned to cases filed in the Indiana judicial system. Case numbers usually indicate when a case was filed, the court where the case was filed, and the type of case that was filed. Persons who wish to find their case numbers can do so by contacting the Court’s Clerk where the case was filed. Indiana case numbers can also be found by utilizing the Case Search portal provided by the state's judicial system and inputting the names of at least one party involved in the case. Case numbers are useful because they help the parties that are involved in the case keep track of the case.
Can You Look up Court Cases in Indiana?
The Indiana judicial system allows the public to lookup court cases and case information online at no cost via its Case Search portal. Interested parties can search for cases on this portal by party name, attorney name, or case number. Alternatively, interested parties can access court case information by contacting the Clerk of Court’s office where the case was heard. Copies of these court records can also be obtained from these offices or by utilizing a third-party vendor’s services. Note that obtaining copies of court records typically requires the payment of a fee.
Does Indiana Hold Remote Trials?
Yes, the Indiana judicial system holds remote court proceedings. As a direct response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, the Supreme Court issued an order on the 31st of March, 2020, empowering notaries and other individuals qualified to administer oaths in the State of Indiana to swear witnesses remotely through audio-video communications equipment. On the 13th of May, 2020, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an emergency order that expanded the scope of remote proceedings held in the state. Under the emergency order, Indiana courts can use audio-visual or telephonic communication equipment when conducting proceedings, including proceedings in felony cases. Courts are also allowed to receive testimony from witnesses remotely, except in criminal proceedings where the parties involved have not waived their right of confrontation or right to be present.
The Indiana judicial system also provides interested parties with access to live streams of court proceedings and hearings that are open to members of the public.
What Is the Indiana Supreme Court?
The Indiana Supreme Court is the state’s highest court. This court has appellate jurisdiction over all matters heard in the state. In addition to its judicial functions, the Indiana Supreme Court is responsible for administering the rules of the Indiana judicial system, and it has the authority to issue writs to enforce its jurisdiction.
The Indiana Supreme Court consists of five justices appointed through a nomination process that involves the State Governor and the state's Judicial Nominating Commission. Note that the Indiana General Assembly is authorized to appoint four additional justices in situations deemed necessary. Individuals that wish to be appointed as Indiana Supreme Court justices must have either served as a Trial Court judge for a minimum of five years or practiced law in the State of Indiana for a minimum of 10 years.
Court of Appeals of Indiana
The Court of Appeals of Indiana is the second-highest court in the state. This court has mandatory appellate jurisdiction over all cases filed in the state's judicial system except for the cases under the exclusive jurisdictions of the Indiana Supreme Court and the Indiana Tax Court. Examples of these are matters involving the death penalty and tax-related matters.
The Indiana judicial system is divided into five appellate districts, and three judges are appointed from each district to constitute the Court of Appeals of Indiana. Note that even though judges are appointed from districts, each judge has statewide jurisdiction. Judges are appointed through a merit selection process carried out by the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission. These individuals must have either practiced law in the state for at least ten years or served as the trial judge for at least five years. When appointed, the 15 judges of the court sit in three-judge panels rotated every four months. Decisions rendered by the Court of Appeals of Indiana can be appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Indiana Tax Court
The Indiana Tax Court is one of Indiana’s two intermediate Appellate Courts, and it has original appellate jurisdiction over all tax-related matters filed in the state. The Tax Court judge is appointed through a selection process similar to the one used in appointing Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges. The Indiana Tax Court is the only Appellate Court in the Indiana judicial system with a single judge. Appeals on decisions rendered by the Indiana Tax Court can be made to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Indiana Circuit Courts
Indiana Circuit Courts are unlimited jurisdiction Trial Courts. The Indiana judicial system is divided into 91 judicial circuits, and there is at least one Circuit Court located in each of these circuits. These courts have jurisdiction over all criminal and civil matters filed in their circuits, but they typically preside over matters outside the jurisdiction of the other courts. Also, the Circuit Courts hear appeals from matters tried in the Indiana Town and City Courts.
Circuit Court judges are usually appointed through partisan elections except in Vanderburgh County, where judges are appointed through non-partisan elections. Individuals that wish to be elected as Indiana Circuit Court judges must be residents of the circuit where the court is located that have been admitted into the practice of law in the state. Appeals from Circuit Courts are mostly filed with the Court of Appeals of Indiana. Note that in criminal cases, only the party found guilty is allowed to file an appeal.
Indiana Superior Courts
The Indiana Superior Courts are general jurisdiction trial courts that handle criminal and civil matters. The specific jurisdiction of these courts varies by county; however, they typically handle felony and misdemeanor cases, general civil claims and other civil matters, juvenile matters, mental health and probate matters, and domestic relations matters. Superior Courts can also hear appeals from Town and City Courts.
Judges in Superior Courts are typically appointed through partisan elections. However, Vanderburgh and Allen Counties appoint judges through non-partisan elections, while Lake and St. Joseph Counties appoint judges in a selection process similar to those employed by the Appellate Courts. Note that Allen County also uses this selection process to appoint a replacement judge when there is a vacancy in one of its Superior Courts. An individual that wishes to be appointed as a Superior Court judge must meet certain requirements that include residing in the County where the court is located and is licensed to practice law in the state of Indiana. Appeals from the Superior Courts are filed with the state’s Court of Appeals.
What Is the St. Joseph County Probate Court in Indiana?
The St. Joseph County Probate Court is the only separate probate court in the Indiana judicial system. This court has limited jurisdiction over certain criminal and civil matters heard in St. Joseph County. These include matters involving estates, wills, guardianships, trusts, paternity disputes, and adoptions, as well as domestic relations matters such as divorce, child visitation, and child support. Also, the St. Joseph County Probate Court has jurisdiction over all juvenile matters in St. Joseph County.
Any individual who wishes to be appointed as a judge in this court must be a resident of the county licensed to practice law in Indiana. St. Joseph County Probate Court judges are appointed through partisan elections. The St. Joseph County Probate Court is statutorily authorized to hear appeals from Town and City Courts, and all appeals from decisions rendered by this court are typically made to the state's Court of Appeals.
What are the Marion County Small Claims Courts?
The Marion County Small Claims Courts are separate and distinct courts located in Marion County that have jurisdiction over all civil cases filed in the county that do not involve more than $8,000. There are nine small claims courts in Marion County, and each of these courts is presided over by a judge. Marion County Small Claims Courts judges are appointed through partisan elections. Only licensed lawyers that have either resided in the township where the court is located for at least a year or were appointed as Indiana Town Court judges before 1999 are qualified to contest in these elections. Decisions issued in the Marion County Small Claims Courts can be appealed at the Court of Appeals of Indiana.
Indiana City Courts
Indiana City Courts are limited jurisdiction courts that handle violations of city ordinances, misdemeanors, traffic infractions, and civil cases that do not involve more than $500. Note that the specific jurisdiction of City Courts in civil matters may differ depending on the city’s population. For example, in cities with a population of between 10,500 and 11,000 people, City Courts can handle civil matters that involve not more than $1,500.
City Courts are headed by judges that are appointed through partisan elections. These judges must be lawyers that are residents of the city at the time of the election. However, judges elected before the 1st of July, 2015 are not required to be lawyers, and they are eligible to continue seeking re-election. City Courts are not courts of records; therefore, appeals from decisions issued by these courts are tried de novo in the Circuit, Superior Courts, or the St. Joseph County Probate Court.
Indiana Town Courts
The Indiana Town Courts are trial courts with exclusive jurisdiction over matters involving violations of the town ordinances and limited jurisdiction over misdemeanor offenses and infractions committed that occur in the towns where they are located.
A Town Court judge must be a resident of the town that is an attorney of good standing. Qualified individuals are appointed through partisan elections. Note that some of these qualification requirements are waived for judges appointed before the 1st of July, 2015, and are seeking re-election. When a decision from a Town Court is appealed, the case is tried afresh in either a Circuit Court, a Superior Court, or a Probate Court for cases heard in a St Joseph County Town Court. This is because Town Courts are not courts of record.