Are North Dakota Court Records Public?
The rights of members of the public to inspect and make copies of court records in North Dakota are guaranteed by Section 6, Article XI of the North Dakota Constitution. The section mandated government departments and agencies, courts inclusive, to open every record or document in their custody for public inspection as and when required. Exemptions were made for records sealed or made confidential by law. Although the North Dakota Legislature passed another Open Records Statute, its jurisdiction was not extended to court records.
The North Dakota Supreme Court, following the state's open government policies, formulated some policies to guide public access to court records. The court's Administrative Rule 41 revealed that both administrative and case records of the court are accessible to members of the public, either remotely or in person. The Administrative Rule, however, excluded some records from public disclosure. Declarations and affidavits submitted for the issuance of search or arrest warrants are not public. Files relating to sexual assault restraining orders are also confidential. The personal information of jurors, juvenile court proceedings, and documents filed during in-camera examinations are also barred from public view.
Parties involved in criminal or delinquency cases may also request that some information in case records be concealed. Such requests may be forwarded to the court in writing, with notices served to other parties. The court may approve the request and prevent public access to such case information upon careful consideration. Government officials, especially law enforcement, retain access to court records barred from public disclosure to enable them to perform their duties without restraint.
What Shows Up on a North Dakota Court Records Search
A North Dakota court record is an official document of court proceedings handled by any North Dakota Court. All court proceedings are recorded per the provisions of the North Dakota Rules of Court. Court records are public records and can be accessed online or in person at the court where the case was filed. A North Dakota court records search process typically involves accessing court case information by querying the designated record custodian or using a third-party service. Court records are pivotal in determining judicial progress, appealing court cases, legal documentation, understanding court proceedings, and determining case status. By conducting a court record search, a person can retrieve information about a case.
How Do I Find Court Records in North Dakota?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in North Dakota is to identify the court case type and the court within which jurisdiction it falls. North Dakota has three permanent court levels, with a temporary fourth, the Court of Appeals, sitting at the Supreme Court's discretion.
The Municipal Courts in North Dakota have limited jurisdictions and cover cities in which they are located. They hear cases such as traffic violations, infractions, and Class B misdemeanors such as disorderly conduct and theft of cable television services. Interested persons may visit the municipal courthouses and request copies of court records in their custody. Fees charged by the different Municipal Courts vary. For instance, the City of Fargo Municipal Court charges requestors $10 per copy of court records made available to them. Additional copies attract a fee of $10 per case. The Municipal Court in West Fargo also charges $10 for each court record requested. The turnaround period for responding to records requests in West Fargo is usually under 48 hours.
The District Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all criminal and civil cases. Interested persons can obtain court records from the North Dakota District Courts by submitting written requests to the clerk of court at their various locations.
The North Dakota Supreme Court is the court with the highest authority in the state. It reviews decisions made by the lower courts and the state's administrative agencies. To request court records from the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, interested individuals may forward their requests to:
Clerk of The North Dakota Supreme Court
600 E Boulevard Ave
Bismarck, ND 58505-0530
The clerks of the courts are empowered to limit each requestor to a search of ten records daily. This limit may be extended to more case files if such requests do not disrupt routine court activities. Some record requests may be entirely denied if they are exempt from public disclosure. Court record requests, where the clerk is not sure of public availability, can be referred to the court for clarity.
North Dakota courthouses are open to requestors whose intention is only to inspect court records. Inspection must be done in the full glare of the court personnel and inspecting individuals will not be permitted to leave the court premises until such records are safely returned.
How to Obtain North Dakota Court Records in Person
Interested persons can access public court records by visiting courthouses and using the available public terminals. North Dakota courts are enrolled in the Odyssey case management system, which the public can access using the courthouses' public terminals. The Fargo Municipal Court does not charge any fee for inspecting and printing copies of court records at their courthouse public terminal.
North Dakota Court Records Remote Access
Court records from different courts in the state are available online. Members of the public can access these records from anywhere and at any time. Opinions and orders of the Supreme Court are also publicly accessible online.
How to Conduct a North Dakota Court Record Search by Name
The North Dakota Courts have a Records Inquiry system (NDCRI) that provides access to court records. With this tool, an individual can find court records by defendant/party name or attorney name. The requester must provide the last name and first name for both search options. Basically, the following information can be retrieved with a name-based search:
- Case details (case number, case type, date filed, location, and judicial officer's name)
- Party information (defendant and plaintiff's name and the names of their attorneys).
- Events and orders of the court (index number, judgment, and date)
- Financial information
An inquirer who cannot find it difficult to perform a name search via the NDCRI can visit the clerk of court in the county where the case is filed. Provide the court staff with any of the case party's name or their attorney's name to conduct the search. Pay the necessary search fees to get the court records.
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
A requester can get court records online for free via the North Dakota Courts Records Inquiry system (NDCRI). The tool provides access to criminal, traffic, and civil case information. criminal/traffic records can be searched by case number, defendant name, citation number, attorney name, or date filed. Civil, family & probate records can be searched by case number, party name, attorney name, and date filed. For low-cost options, use the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) tool to get court records at $0.10 per page.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, court 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.
What Shows Up on North Dakota Judgment Records?
Judgment records in North Dakota are documents describing the outcome of a lawsuit. Judges typically make judgments based on a jury's verdict or the examination of case facts based on applicable state laws. Court clerks then enter the judgment records into the court docket, thus making it legally binding on the case parties unless an appeal overturns the judgment.
Interested members of the public may obtain copies of North Dakota judgment records per the North Dakota Open Records Act and the Judiciary Administrative Rule. To obtain the judgment record in a case, visit the clerk's office in person during business hours and provide the case number and the names of the parties involved in the case. The court administrative staff will also require payment of applicable fees before processing the request for the judgment records. These fees are payable in cash or with money orders, certified checks, and credit cards.
The content of any two judgment records will vary. Still, the nature of information in North Dakota judgment records is similar. Persons who obtain North Dakota judgment records can expect to see the litigants' names, the judge's name, the judge's conclusion on the lawsuit, and the judgment issued per state laws.
Are North Dakota Bankruptcy Records Public?
North Dakota bankruptcy records fall under the public domain and can be accessed by residents. They consist of the accounting information of individuals and non-individuals who have started bankruptcy cases at the District of North Dakota bankruptcy court. The financial data of debtors stored in North Dakota bankruptcy records include their total income and the source of that revenue, and their assets and liabilities. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of North Dakota presided over by Honourable Shon Hastings (Chief Judge), is located at the following address:
Quentin N. Burdick United States Courthouse
655 1st Ave North, Suite 210
Fargo, ND 58102
Phone: (701) 297-7100
On June 22, 2020, North Dakota District Court upgraded to the Next Generation (NextGen) of the CM/ECF. Following the upgrade, filers were registered on PACER. Parties can file proof of claim for all chapters of the Bankruptcy Code electronically through the court's website. The procedure does not require a CM/ECF login and password. Proof of claim form, otherwise known as Official Form 410, is created for the petitioner after the claim information has been filled and submitted.
Bankruptcy records, contracts, writs, North Dakota liens, and related recordings are deemed public record per state law unless restricted by judicial order. Interested members of the public may access these records from their custodians. Still, requestors may be required to provide information to facilitate record search and cover the cost of duplication (where applicable).
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in North Dakota
Bankruptcy records are public records. Therefore, anyone can send requests to the United States Bankruptcy Court. District of North Dakota to view or obtain copies of them. Individuals can obtain bankruptcy records over the phone through the Multi-Court Voice Case Information System. Just dial (866) 222-8029 and follow the prompts. Bankruptcy records can also be obtained online through Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). First, the requester must register a PACER account. A search can be conducted by a specific court or national index. The search fee costs $30 per name/item. If the case is to be delivered electronically an additional $0.10 per page per document and $3 per document will be charged. Paper copies mailed to requesters cost an extra $0.50 per page. Individuals who cannot afford the PACER fees can apply for fee waivers.
Alternatively, a requester can use the court's public terminal located in the clerk's office to view bankruptcy records for free. However, copies of records printed from the public terminal cost $0.10 per page. The clerk's office also provides copies of bankruptcy records filed before December 1, 2003, for $.50 per page. The clerk's office is located at:
Bankruptcy Clerk's Office
Quentin N. Burdick United States Courthouse
655 1st Ave North, Suite 210
Fargo, ND 58102
Phone: (701) 297-7100
Can You Look Up Court Cases in North Dakota?
The Odyssey online platform provides an avenue for the public to look up court cases in North Dakota. The North Dakota court website lists various courts whose records are on Odyssey and accessible by the members of the public. The public can also look up orders and opinions of the Supreme Court on the North Dakota courts website.
North Dakota Court Case Lookup Exemptions
The North Dakota Open Records Law allows court records to be available to members of the public. However, some court records are restricted to a selected free. Confidential court records include adoption, juvenile, investigative, mental health, and sealed/expunged criminal records.
How to Find a Court Docket in North Dakota
A North Dakota court docket is a file maintained by North Dakota courts for each case filed by residents. It provides a list of every document filed with the Clerk of Court. Court dockets serve as calendars that help individuals track a case. To conduct a docket search, go to the North Dakota Courts website. Click on Supreme Court and select Docket Search from the dropdown menu. This list provides docket entries made by the Supreme Court. Search results typically provide information like docket number, title, author, case type, the court the case was appealed from, briefs, party details, and docket entries.
Types of Courts in North Dakota
North Dakota Court system comprises the following court levels:
- The Supreme Court: This is the highest court in North Dakota. The Supreme Court regulates law practice and ensures all court rules are obeyed. The court has five justices with appellate jurisdiction over decisions made in the lower courts.
- Court of Appeals: They exercise appellate and original jurisdiction as assigned by the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals has three judges.
- District Courts: These courts have original and general jurisdiction over all criminal and civil cases. North Dakota has 52 district court judges.
- Municipal Courts: They handle cases that involve violations of municipal ordinances, excluding violations involving juveniles. North Dakota has 63 municipal judges presiding over 87 municipal courts.
Civil vs Small Claims Courts in North Dakota: Understanding the Difference
Small claims are civil suits where aggrieved persons seek damages for non-criminal offenses committed against them. The damages sought must not exceed a certain limit if they must be tried in court as small claims.
As a division of the District Courts, North Dakota Small Claims Courts handle small claims cases where the damages sought is less than $15,000. Thus, landlord-tenant disputes, contractual disputes, and debts not exceeding $15,000 are tried as small claims in North Dakota. Small claims proceedings are less formal than the usual court cases. Juries or Court Reporters are not required to participate in small claims cases. Hiring an attorney for a small claims dispute is not necessary or economical since the amount sought as damages is small.
Defendants must respond after receiving small claims summons within 20 days of receiving the petition. Parties involved are allowed to bring witnesses, and the Judge makes decisions after hearing both sides. In North Dakota, court rulings on small claims cases are final and not appealable. If a defendant fails to respond to a petition within 20 days, the plaintiff automatically wins the case. Sometimes, defendants may also elect to have the suit discontinued at the Small Claims Court and tried at the District Court where juries and attorneys may be present. If the defendant loses after such transfer to the District Court, payment of fees incurred by the plaintiff in hiring an attorney is included in the judgment awarded against the defendant.
To avoid losing a case before it begins, a plaintiff must note that a small claims suit must be filed with a Small Claims Court where the defendant resides. Also, disputes involving debts must be filed not more than six years after the money was borrowed or six years after the last payment by the defendant.
There are no limits to the amount that can be sought as damages in other civil cases brought before North Dakota District Court. However, plaintiffs must ensure suits are filed within certain time limits. For cases involving breach of contracts, lawsuits must be filed within four to six years after the offense was committed. Libel suits must be filed within two years, while disputes involving personal injury must be filed within six years.