Iowa Court Records Search
Per Iowa Court Rules, a court record is a public record created by the courts. They are made for both criminal and civil cases, by local, county, state, and federal judicial bodies in the justice system. Court records are generated to document the routines of the legal system, and it reveals how judicial disputes are resolved.
Although court records are available to the public, they can be sealed, expunged, or made unavailable through legal methods like classification. This is usually done when details of the case can be a continuing threat or liability to government agencies, companies, or persons who were victims of a crime.
The Iowa court records are available online and may require interested persons to visit the courthouse of record creation or the clerk of the municipal government to obtain or study the records. Information in a court record varies proportionally on the bases of the municipality, with some providing relevant details of cases, while others provide case names, case numbers, and the type of court in which the dispute, criminal trial, or sentencing took place. Some are free for observation, while others cost money to reproduce.
Are Iowa Court Records Public?
The Iowa Open Record Law governs public access to public records in the State of Iowa. Enacted in 1967, the law guarantees that public records from government agencies may be accessed by the general public as provided by the law. The State of Iowa considers court records as part of public records. Hence, it is the right of the general public to examine and obtain copies of court records or the information contained therein.
However, as stipulated by the Access to Court Records and Information guide, certain records are treated as confidential and, as such, are not accessible to the general public. These records include:
- Juvenile Delinquency cases sealed by court order
- Cases involving termination of parental rights and child in need of assistance
- Reports of a pre-sentence investigation
- Yet-to-be-executed search and arrests warrants
- Any case file featuring civil commitment to mental illness or abuse of substance
- Records of civil domestic abuse sealed by court order
- Dockets of deferred judgment
- Dissolution record information sealed by court order.
How Do I Find Court Records in Iowa?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in the State of Iowa is to find out the agencies that issue the records. The Iowa Judicial Branch provides public access to court case information on court cases, operations, and administration. To find case information, requests for records must be directed to the legal custodian of the records. Requests may be submitted verbally or in writing during the Judicial Branch working hours, usually from 9 am to 12 pm and 1 pm to 4 pm, Monday through Friday.
The Iowa Judicial Branch responds to requests for records based on the type of information sought and the form of requests made. In Iowa, requestors may request records via the media or in person. All requests for records made via the media must be sent to the Judicial Branch Communication Director.
How to Obtain Iowa Court Records in Person
For in-person requests, requestors must identify the court where the case was tried. Court Clerks are usually responsible for court records in Iowa, and the custodian of court records is different for each court. Requests must be made to the Court Clerk in the district where the case was tried. Individuals may check the Iowa District Court directory for information about County Courts.
To request records, requestor's may visit the office of the Supreme Court Clerk at:
Iowa Judicial Branch Building
1111 East Court Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50319
Alternatively, call (515) 348-4700
Requestors may also request administrative court records, and to do this, interested persons must submit a formal request to the State Court Administrator. The Court Administrator will then inform the individual whether the information in demand is available or not. Also, the Administrator tells the requestor about the requirements for obtaining the information that was sought.
Iowa Court Records Public Access
If the record sought is about court proceedings, the requestor may be directed to use the State's Court Records self-service tools like Iowa Court Online Search or the Iowa Court e-file System. These tools can be used remotely or at the court where the case was filed. Most courts in Iowa have public terminals where records can be sought.
Custodians of court records usually require payment to process court records in Iowa for both media and in-person requests. For records on papers, requestors are generally charged based on the number of pages required. The requestor may also have to pay the mailing cost for mailed records. The State of Iowa Judicial Branch charges fees based on the amount of staff time used to respond to a request. Staff time includes:
- Retrieving responsive records
- Programming involved in handling requests for electronic data
- Supervision of requestors examination and duplication of records
- Reviewing documents before sending them out
Since May 2020, Iowa has witnessed more requests for records via the media. Due to Covid-19, the state has encouraged the public to reduce in-person requests as much as possible. Under Iowa Code section 29C.6 and Code section 135.144, the Governor of the State has temporarily suspended the provisions of the State's Code 22.4. This is to ensure that the custodian of records does not receive many in-person requests at the moment. The suspension is expected to last until January 2021.
How to Conduct an Iowa Court Record Search by Name
Iowa court records can be obtained by name via the Iowa Judicial Branch website.
Requester should proceed to the right side of the page, under "Trial Court", and click on "Case Search". The requester may enter the search criteria into the provided fields on the Search Page. This may be the Party Name, Case Number, or Date Filed. After submitting the query, results related to the criteria provided will be generated. For each search result, users will be provided the case number, party name, filing date, time, and important details of the hearing. For instance, in cases heard in the Iowa Judicial Branch, the requester may visit the Iowa Judicial Branch website, sign in to the case management system as a guest, or returning user, or create a new account. Persons without Internet access may go to the clerk of the court office where the case is filed to view the record.
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
Obtaining free online court records is limited. However, several courts permit record seekers to use their public access computers to conduct court record searches at no cost. This would require the inquirer to visit the courthouse where the case was heard. However, any additional services rendered by cost staff will come at a cost.
Voice Case Information System (VCIS) is an online platform requesters can use to obtain a record for free. PACER is also an online low-cost database that provides access to electronic court records remotely. Access to PACER from a computer at a courthouse for cases held only at the courthouse is free.
Types of Courts in Iowa
The Iowa court structure comprises two levels, which are: The Appellate Court (Supreme Court and Court of Appeal) and The Trial Courts (District Court).
The Iowa Supreme Court is the apex Appellate court of last resort in the state. The Supreme Court's verdict is final, but when the case involves interpretation of federal law, the person involved may appeal to the US Supreme Court. Each appeal made in Iowa is first submitted to the Supreme Court; the court then decides the merit of the appeal and whether to directly handle the appeal or refer it to the Court of Appeals. It usually handles cases that involve public funding or that affect the interpretation of State Statutes. It is also responsible for attorney's discipline and license issuing to legal practitioners in the state. It enacts court rules and procedures to be used in the state. The Iowa Court of Appeal is the second Appellate Court in the state. It reviews cases in which the legal principles have been settled. These cases must have been referred to the Court of Appeal by the Supreme Court. The decision of this court is usually final except in cases where there is an intervention from the Supreme Court. It does not preside over trials and proceedings that do not involve witnesses, court reporters, new evidence, or juries. It works based on reviewing the written record of the trial court. Finally, the District Court is where all cases start in Iowa. Most civil, criminal, and juvenile cases are heard or tried here. It also treats cases of misdemeanor and small claims. It has different procedures for civil, criminal, and juvenile cases.
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 are Iowa Judgment Records?
Iowa judgment records are documents describing the outcome of a case decided in a court of competent jurisdiction in Iowa. A judgment is an order or court-issued declaration of legal rights based on state laws. Issuing this judgment typically closes a criminal or civil suit unless a party appeals the decision in a higher court.
The clerk of courts is the designated record custodian for judgment records, which are public records per the Iowa Open Records Law.
To obtain this record, visit the clerk's office during regular business hours and submit a formal request. The court administrative staff will need the case identifying details, such as case number and litigants' names, to process the request. Furthermore, the requester must pay the applicable processing fees.
The information contained in these documents varies with case type. Still, persons who obtain judgment records in Iowa can expect to see the litigants' names, the judge's names, and the judgment date. The document will also contain a case description and the court's decision, i.e., the issued judgment.
What are Iowa Bankruptcy Records?
Iowa Bankruptcy Records provide financial information about people, businesses, and corporations who have filed for bankruptcy due to their inability to pay their debts. These records are considered public. Filing for bankruptcy in Iowa can be a fairly complex process. However, the Bankruptcy Court of Iowa sets clear guidelines for communication with the court to ensure that it meets its legal obligations equitably. To be fair to all parties, the judges and individuals employed by the court are advised to avoid providing legal advice. Inquiries on how to proceed or what to do are considered legal advice requests. Those who want a better grasp of their legal rights may speak with a bankruptcy attorney.
According to Iowa state law, bankruptcy records and associated documents such as Iowa liens, writs, motions, and judgments are deemed public information. Interested persons may query the record custodian to view or copy these records.
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in Iowa
Under the 11 U.S.C. Section 107(1), bankruptcy records are public records accessible to eligible persons. Individuals can conduct a bankruptcy record search in Iowa by using any of the methods listed below:
- Physical request: persons can visit the clerk's office in person to ask for a copy of the bankruptcy record. Persons using the computer in the court's lobby will pay a fee of 10 cents per page.
- Mail request: persons can send mail via written request. The request must include the following:
- Debtor(s) name and case number:
- Documents to be copied:
- Non-debtor name and contact information
- Requester self-addressed stamped envelope.
Fee due in the form of a money order or check should be payable to the Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, via the Southern District of Iowa.
- The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Online Bankruptcy Record Retrieval: this method enables requesters to retrieve Iowa bankruptcy records. Requesters must register to submit a reference request or order reproductions online. Retrieval of an archived case at NARA usually takes 7 to 10 days. The cost for this service is $64 for the first box and $39 for each additional box.
- Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER): The PACER provides federal court bankruptcy case records online. Requesters are expected to register a PACER account to use this service.
- Voice Case Information System (VCIS): this provides limited information on bankruptcy cases for free. The information is available on this platform includes the debtor's personal information and details of the case.
- Public terminals: bankruptcy courts in Iowa provide public terminals that record seekers can explore to search for bankruptcy case records. Using this service is entirely free, but a fee is required if requesters intend to make copies of records.
Can You Look Up Court Cases in Iowa?
Yes, state residents may perform Iowa court case lookups in-person or remotely. For in-person requests, individuals may visit the Supreme Court Clerk's office for cases filed in the Appellate Court and the District Court Clerk's office for cases filled in the State's District Courts. The Court Clerk makes the court record available in hard copies or electronic form. Each Court in Iowa has a terminal that allows individuals to search court records on their own using the Online Search Tool. Requestors may also demand to see records that are yet to be uploaded to the State database.
Residents may employ the Iowa web-based electronic Public Access application for remote search from their comfort zone. The online search tool allows residents to search for Appellate Court cases and Trial Court Cases. It performs a statewide search on a limited number of fields. The search results usually include cases entered on the database at the end of the last business day.
Once the individual selects a case, the case displays case data from when the case was filled to the last minute as entered by the Court Clerk. This service is available to all users. Residents may be required to register on the database to conduct a scheduled search, which usually involves cases from particular courts in a specific county.
Iowa Court Case Lookup Exemptions
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that gives individuals the right to inspect and obtain copies of government records, except for records that have been exempted from public disclosure. The Iowa Open Records Law is contained in Chapter 21 and Chapter 22 of the Iowa Code.
However, requesters that have not been granted legal access may not have complete remote access to some electronic records even if the Iowa court case is accessible to the general public. For example, juvenile case records usually remain inaccessible until the offender becomes an adult. This is done to protect the person who committed the crime as they were legally a child during their trial period. Other common cases are sexual assault or company secrets contained in court records, divorce records, child custody records, civil harassment records, and criminal records. In such a situation, a judge may allow remote access to the criminal electronic record. Usually, persons requesting such records must visit the courthouses where the cases were filed.
What is a Court Docket in Iowa?
An Iowa court docket is an alphabetical listing of filings and proceedings that occurred in a court case in Iowa, from the initial complaints to the final judge's verdict. Items filed with the court are recorded and numbered on a docket sheet. It is maintained by the clerk of court offices. They are used to record case proceedings to enable easy access by record seekers. Generally, dockets assist in finding brief entries of court proceedings filed with a court. With a court docket:
- Case party can know the status and hearing dates of their case.
- Members of the public can inspect or obtain copies of court records.
- An attorney can track their cases to know court dates.
- Judges can view the list of cases scheduled for hearings and an employer can run quick background checks on intending employees.
What are Civil Court and Small Claims in Iowa?
Civil cases typically fall into family law cases, tort law cases, and contract law cases. Family law cases include cases involving divorce, child support, and custody. Tort law cases involve personal injury, property damage, and product liability. Contract law cases involve written and oral agreements. All civil case court hearings involve the assertion of claims and the presentation of evidence to support the claims by parties in the dispute.
Iowa Small Claims are civil claims for damages less than $6,500. Generally, Iowa small claims courts are subdivisions of District Courts. There is a possibility for small claims to be brought before an Appellate Court through appeal. Small claims account for more than nine percent in the state and are tried before a judge, not a jury. Generally, a litigant is not required for small claims, but the individual may decide to have one. The individual must file an original notice form electronically to start a small claim. This usually attracts a filing fee of $95.00.