Hi, my name is Kelli, and I am a part-time court reporter. Most of the court cases I transcribe are pretty boring and full of redundant legal maneuvering. Some days it’s hard not to jump across the podium and strangle some babbling defense attorney! All in all, it’s rewarding work, and occasionally justice actually gets served.
I got interested in free court records when my grandfather died a few years ago. There was a major battle over his estate, the executrix was sued for fraud, collusion, grand theft (she illegally cleaned out his safe deposit box of $500K) and identity theft. She falsified his death records, sold his social security number to an illegal alien, and continued to use his credit cards after fleeing to Mexico when felony charges were prepared against her.
If there was a silver lining in that story, it’s that my quest for information on that court case led me to this occupation. I’ve even come into contact with court records “junkies”, people who pour over free court records for personal details on celebrities. I had no idea some people have nothing better to do.
Here is the one guiding principle when you are at a courthouse to request documents on an individual or business:
- If taxpayer dollars were used to acquire, assimilate or store the pubic record information you are looking for, then you have a legal right to have your request for that documentation met by the court clerk’s staff.
- Unfortunately, some courthouses are run like personal fiefdom’s that tend to completely ignore the fact that as a taxpayer, you have a right to the data. Clerks of the Court often set unnecessary or unrealistic information request parameters (including making you pay for the information) such as:
- No copies of their files are to be made (ridiculous!)
- You have to make an appointment to view any of their files
- A member of the court’s staff must be present while you are granted the privilege of viewing their sacred files
Do not be deterred by these draconian measures! The info that you need is there, so don’t be shy about exercising your constitutional right to those records. Exceptions include all files sealed by judicial order, and all files on individuals who are under the age of 18.
If you are trying to locate someone, a nice site I came across explains the “Google People Search” process (how to Google People to find information for free on people and businesses). It’s certainly worth a shot if all you are doing is looking for someone. One thing though that you can find in court records that will make short work of any people search is a date of birth and sometimes a social security number for the person you are trying to locate. That personal identifying info is worth it’s weight in gold!
Another excellent way up coming up with great information on people is good ‘ol Facebook. It never ceases to amaze how much sensitive data people will post up on their profile like it’s no big deal! It’s not a big deal if your profile is strictly private, but 95+ percent are not!