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What are Arizona Civil Court Records?
Arizona civil court records refer to various records detailing information regarding civil court proceedings within the state’s jurisdiction. These records generally offer accounts of civil suits /cases, court hearings, and judgments, and they are typically maintained and disseminated by the office of the clerk of courts in the court where the case was heard. Civil court records may be available to interested members of the public, depending on the jurisdiction where the case was filed/heard and the sensitivity of the information contained in the record.
Cases Heard by Arizona’s Civil Court
Arizona civil court cases include a variety of cases/suits requiring various legal resolutions. Civil courts generally hear most cases excluding those of a criminal persuasion. Thus, legal actions involving conflicts between individuals, organizations or institutions are within the jurisdiction of the civil court. These conflicts often include claims of financial entitlements/settlements including tort acts with claims for personal injury, defamation, negligence, and fraud as well as claims for contract breaches and equitable claims. Also heard by civil courts are family-related cases such as divorce, child custody, and adoption as well rental or landlord/tenant issues, and traffic-related cases involving financial claims
Arizona’s Civil Court System
Arizona’s legal system consists of various courts of general and limited jurisdiction as well as a state supreme court and a state court of appeals, both of which are considered the state’s appellate courts. The limited jurisdiction courts include the city or municipal magistrate courts and Justice of the Peace Courts (otherwise known as county courts).
As per Arizona’s civil court system, the justice of the peace courts has jurisdiction over some civil cases and as such hears cases pertaining to rental disputes, civil disputes involving claims of under $10,000 and small claims under $3500. However, all Arizona superior courts are considered courts of general jurisdiction, thus hearing all civil cases in which the jurisdiction is not vested in a justice of the peace court. On the other hand, Arizona’s court of appeals and supreme court serve as the state’s intermediate appellate court and the court of last resort respectively. These courts review the decisions of civil suits made in any of the lower courts including the state superior courts or justice of the peace courts.
Most civil suits proceed with the plaintiff filing a complaint to the appropriate courthouse. Following the complaint, the defendant is informed via a court summons which indicates the preferred court action of the plaintiff.
Defendants must respond to the summons within 20 days of its delivery and proceed to exchange relevant information regarding the case if required. Civil suits may be settled out of court or using alternative dispute resolution methods. However, cases that make it to court are tried before a judge and/or jury which evaluates the case based on the testimony of both parties, the arguments of their legal counsel and the evidence tendered. Once a judgment is passed, the losing party may appeal the verdict to a higher level appellate court. However, the state supreme court is Arizona’s court of last resort.
What is Included in an Arizona Civil Court Record?
Generally, court records are unique to each case. However, the information contained in Arizona civil court records also varies depending on the court where the case was filed and the record generated. Most records contain information regarding the suit such as the complaint made, the personal information of the plaintiff and defendant and the date and place where the suit was filed. Most records also feature relevant documents pertaining to the trial or hearing such as evidence filed, trial transcripts, motion arguments, and court actions.
Civil cases in which a financial claim is made or a settlement is disbursed often have records in which these claims are included. These records also include any agreed-upon probationary conditions.
Are Arizona Civil Court Records Open to the Public?
While Arizona state courts are not governed by the state’s public record laws, the Arizona Supreme Court Rule 123 provides guidelines pertaining to the maintenance and dissemination of judicial records including civil court records. According to this law, all civil court records, as well as those maintained by administrative units of judicial institutions, are presumed to be open and accessible to interested members of the public. However, where there is a court order restricting the dissemination of a record, it is regarded as being confidential and the record is typically restricted to persons who meet specific eligibility requirements.
How Do I Obtain Civil Court Records in Arizona?
Most civil court records are accessed in the same manner as all other judicial records in courthouses throughout the state of Arizona. Depending on the record of interest, persons looking to access civil court records may require permissions from the record custodian. However, documents which are available through remotely accessible sources are considered public record and do not usually require such permissions. Arizona civil court records may be accessed by:
- Using online resources such as the Arizona Judicial Branch website
- By making in-person requests
- Sending requests mail-in requests to the record custodian
- Using third-party aggregation sites
How to Obtain Arizona Civil Court Records in-person?
While the Arizona state government provides a variety of convenient remotely accessible record retrieval options for accessing civil court records, some records may only be accessed in person. This is pursuant to the Arizona Supreme court rule 123 which prohibits the dissemination of specific records to ineligible persons or those without a court order. Thus in-person requests typically guarantee access to full-court case information.
In order to access a record in-person, the requester must first identify the court where the record was filed or the case heard. For civil cases heard in Arizona, this is often the Superior court or a Justice of the Peace Court of the jurisdiction where the complaint was filed. Once verified, the requesting party is required to contact the appropriate clerk of courts for information regarding the process of record retrieval in that jurisdiction.
In many cases, the requestor will be required to schedule an appointment prior to visiting the custodian. Upon securing an appointment, the requesting party will be required to assemble information relevant for tracking the record of interest. This typically includes information such as the name of the plaintiff and defendant as well as details of the suit including the place and date of filing and any financial claims involved. To request a record, the requestor must query the division of the court which attends to the case type. Requestors may also be required to pay a standard search and copy fee, as well as present a copy of any identifying document to prove their eligibility to access the record.
How to Obtain Arizona Civil Court Records Via Mail
Arizona civil court records can also be accessed by sending mail-in requests to the office of the custodian of the record of interest. In this case, the requestor must send a written request to the office indicating relevant details of the case such as the names of the parties involved, the case file number, the place, and the date on which the case was filed. For clarity, written requests must also include the type of documents being requested and in some cases should be enclosed along with the requestor's government-issued ID, a self-addressed envelope and payment to cover the required search and/or copy fees.
Accessing Arizona Civil Court Records Online and For Free
The Arizona judicial branch is maintained and operated by the state and is designed to feature court records of various courts across the state. The resources available on this site can be accessed remotely, and at no cost. However, pursuant to the provisions of the Arizona Supreme Court rules the information available online only includes the personal information of the plaintiff/defendant, minute entries, court actions and public records filed to serve as evidence. Other information pertaining to juveniles and details of jurors and witnesses are typically excluded from online resources. To access these records, requests to the record custodian must be made in person.
To conduct an online search using the Case Search Tool, the user must furnish the tool with relevant information regarding the case of interest including the last and first name/business name of the plaintiff/defendant as well as their date of birth and the court in which the case was filed/heard. Searches may also be conducted using the case search number of the record. Alternatively, interested persons may use the online resources provided by the specific court where the case was filed. To do so, the requestor must know the court in which the case was filed in order to know the appropriate tool to be used.
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
How Do I Access Sealed Civil Court Records in Arizona?
To access such records, the requestor must be a qualified law enforcement agent or an individual authorized by a court order or subpoena. While the state of Arizona protects the right of the public to access civil court records and provides a variety of means to access these records, some records are inaccessible following the requirements of the state’s court record laws. While some civil court records are rendered inaccessible based on the information contained therein, others are sealed by court order or expunged following the request of the plaintiff or defendant.