Filing a suit in Michigan creates a paper trail of official court documents until the presiding judge makes a verdict. If either party files an appeal, the paper trail continues for a long as the case exists.
For the most part, these court documents are public records under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. Therefore, anyone may access them by submitting a request to the clerk of courts. There are also several online alternatives for getting scanned copies of the court records of interest.
Getting Michigan Court Records in Person
Every court maintains custody of the documents related to a criminal or civil case from the moment of filing till the final judgment. These include transcripts, case files, orders, motions, minute entries, and court decree. You may also see digital copies of evidence and supporting documents filed with the court clerk.
There are over 200 courts in Michigan, and you cannot visit each one to submit a random request. Ergo, to get court records in person, you must first identify the court that handled the case of interest. Generally, cases are filed in the county of incidence or where the defendant resides. Use this court directory to find the contact information of the courts located in Michigan counties.
Upon identifying the court, visit the office of the clerk and submit a written request. The request letter must be concise and to the point. It must describe the court documents you seek with details like the name of the persons involved and the date of filing or final judgment. You can also provide the case number and the name of the presiding judge or representing attorney.
This information helps court staff find and process your request quickly. Bear in mind that you must pay for the cost of searching, reproducing, and certifying the court records you seek. Furthermore, if the documents you seek do not exist, the staff cannot create one to fulfill your request. In such a case, you only bear the search costs charged per hour. You may ask the clerk for a fee waiver if you cannot afford the total cost. However, there is no guarantee for getting one as courts have eligibility requirements for awarding a fee waiver.
Getting Michigan Court Records Online
Compared with in-person requests, this option is typically faster, costs less, and you can get the documents without leaving your home. And the best part is you are not limited to which online resource you can use to find court records. Primarily, you can use the central case search portal and the public access to court electronic records database (PACER).
On the other hand, there are independent aggregate websites that maintain public information for all. These websites offer several advantages over official sources. The ease of use and access to multiple public records linked to a single entity makes independent websites a valuable tool.
Whether you choose to visit the court or use an online tool, accessing court records in Michigan is your statutory right. Restrictions only apply when there is a statutory or judicial order to sequester the document from public access. Even at that, you can still petition the court to grant access if you have compelling legal reasons. Other than this, no record custodian may deny your request to get a court record.