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What are Oklahoma Civil Court Records?
Oklahoma civil court records refer to reports and documents pertaining to civil court proceedings in the various judicial districts of the state. They are typically maintained by the office of the clerk of courts in the court where the case was heard. Civil court records typically feature information such as the case trial transcripts, which contains courts filed motions, actions, motion argument and judgments documented on paper or recorded electronically. They also include the court's verdict regarding the case and any court-issued settlements granted the plaintiff/plaintiff. As per Oklahoma state laws, these records are generally available to interested members of the public upon request unless deemed confidential by the court.
Cases Heard by Oklahoma Civil Courts
Civil courts in Oklahoma have jurisdiction over all civil cases within the state, including general consumer complaints, interpersonal or inter-organization disputes as well as most cases in which the plaintiff is entitled to a financial claim. Unlike criminal cases, civil cases are filed based on personal complaints usually regarding personal injury, contract breaches or property damage. Some examples of cases heard by Oklahoma civil courts include:
- Work-related disputes or complaints
- Consumer complaints as well as tort and equitable claims
- Breach of contract (usually causing personal injury or property damage)
- Libel and slander resulting in character defamation
- Negligence and battery
- Family-related cases
- Landlord & tenant disputes
The Oklahoma Civil Court System
The Oklahoma state judicial system encompasses various courts of varying authorities. It comprises of:
- Oklahoma Supreme Court
- Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals
Civil suits typically begin in the state district courts or the workers' compensation court. While the district court has general jurisdiction over most civil cases, workers’ compensation courts are primarily reserved for dispute resolution where the issue is pertaining to a contract breach or on-the-job injuries.
Following the lawsuit, the defendant may respond to the plaintiffs’ claims or opt to hold-off until the pre-trial hearing in which preliminary negotiations ensue. These negotiations are overseen by a judge and held between the plaintiff and defendant as well as their legal representatives. Pre-trial conferences sometimes result in a favorable resolution for both parties. However, where this is not the case, the case will go to trial and be heard by a judge and jury (where applicable).
The decision of a district of workers’ compensation court may be appealed in the state Civil Court of Appeal or Oklahoma’s Supreme Court which is one of the state’s courts of last resort. The Supreme Court also hears appeals of decisions made by the Civil Court of Appeals as it is also part of the judicial power of the state Supreme Court to revise the decision of all state courts. However, unlike criminal cases, both the plaintiff and defendant may appeal the verdict of a lower court in the state of Oklahoma.
What is Included in an Oklahoma Civil Court Record?
Oklahoma civil court records provide official accounts of general court case information and litigation processes in civil courts. As such, court records are typically unique to the judicial district where the case was heard and the case type or claim involved. Usually, civil court records feature information regarding the parties involved as well as details of the suit. Most records include the date and place of the original complaint, the response of the defendant as well as details of the proceedings of the pre-trial hearing (except if closed/restricted by a court order). Most importantly, civil court records feature information of the court trial, including details of:
- Court actions
- Motions and motion arguments
- Filed evidence
- Witness statements
Additionally, Oklahoma civil court records include information regarding the court's final verdict and consequent penalties or rights/financial settlements granted either party. This includes the amounts entitled the plaintiff in alimony/spousal support, child support or injury claim/restitution. The court may also indicate conditions of child custody, visitation or restraining order which is also featured on the record. Where either party is held in contempt and ascribed penalties details of the jail term, fines, probation sentence or community service requirement may also be indicated. Court records also include judgment revisions made by higher courts and other details such as court opinions and decisions.
Are Oklahoma Civil Court Records Open to the Public?
Most court records contained on online repositories are typically considered public information. As provided by Oklahoma’s public record laws, interested members of the public may access civil court records containing strictly public information. This includes details of the suit filed as well as the litigation processes of the civil court such as court actions, and motions, court orders, and appearances, motion arguments, dispositions as well as the court's final verdict including settlements granted and conditions for court-issued rights. In addition, court schedules, calendars and minutes and opinions are public record and can be obtained upon request.
While most U.S states protect the right of public access to civil court records, this right is not absolute. Records containing restricted information or civil court records that are sealed by court order are generally available to selected persons. As such, the following information is excluded from public access:
- Records pertaining to nolle pressed charges
- Legal actions involving public offices where the dispute is deemed confidential (except for details of the amount paid in settlement)
- Documents filed by social services and related institutions and most welfare cases
- The personal information of assault victims
- Identifying information about juveniles and minors
- Information relating to the financial status of the parties involved in the suit
- Banking information, credit card numbers and social security numbers presented as evidence.
Does Oklahoma Have a Judiciary Case Search?
The state of Oklahoma maintains a public access judiciary repository which serves as a central database for records generated by courts within the jurisdiction of the state. The repository holds case records and information regarding civil suits. By accessing the online index, interested members of the public can obtain non-confidential case information as well as data contained in microfilmed records. Additionally, the state judicial system maintains other remotely accessible alternatives for retrieving court case information. However, the case information available via these online resources are strictly public information which typically excludes any confidential records or information sealed by a court order.
How do I Obtain Civil Court Records In Oklahoma?
In accordance with the provisions of the Oklahoma Open Records Act, members of the public may access civil court records generated by the state's judicial system. The accessibility of a record may vary depending on the case and its confidentiality. However, even sealed records, though restricted, can be accessed by eligible persons. There are three main channels through which Oklahoma criminal court records can be retrieved:
- Using the states-operated or third party online resources
- Making in-person requests to the courthouse where the case was heard
- Sending mail-in queries to the appropriate record custodian
Accessing Oklahoma Civil Court Records In-person
Given the limitations of publicly accessible online repositories, all requesters seeking full judicial records or court case information may access them by querying the record custodian in person. Since the Oklahoma state judiciary restricts the dissemination of confidential/sealed court case information to selected persons, in-person requests ensure that the requesting party proves their eligibility before accessing the record of interest. All Oklahoma in-person record requests may proceed thus:
Verify the Record Custodian
Oklahoma civil court records are typically managed or disseminated by the state district courts or the Oklahoma workers compensation court depending on the case. Where the initial verdict has been reviewed by an appellate court, the updated record of interest may also be domiciled with the state court of civil appeals or the Supreme Court. As such, in order to make in-person court record requests, the requesting party must confirm the judicial district/courthouse in which the suit was filed/heard. Interested persons may use the Oklahoma Court System Map featured on the states OSCN website to obtain information regarding court locations and record custodians within the state's jurisdiction
Collect the Required Information
To request a record, the requesting party is often required to provide any information that may facilitate the record search. However, these requirements generally vary between judicial districts, and may also be impacted by the nature and/or confidentiality of the suit. Thus, upon confirming the location of the record custodian, requestors are advised to contact the office for information regarding the record retrieval process of that judicial district. The information usually requested includes the full name of the parties involved and either or both litigants, the approximate date on which the suit was filed/heard, and the case file number of the record (if known).
Visit the Court Record Custodian
In-person requests are generally made to the record custodian of the applicable court during official working hours. However, most custodians require that the requestor schedule their visit to the courthouse beforehand.
Upon visiting the courthouse, requestors may be allowed to self-serve using the court's public-access terminals. However, if the record being requested is confidential or requires certification, the requestor will be provided with a request form to indicate details of the record of interest as well as any relevant information pertaining to the request.
Provide Identification and Fee Requirements
In some cases, requestors may be charged a nominal fee and required to provide a government-issued ID prior to accessing a civil court record. While the fees cover search and copy costs, the ID’s are useful for confirming the eligibility of the requestor, especially in cases where the record is restricted. Additionally, if the said record is confidential, requests must also be accompanied by a court-issued subpoena. Where the requestor cannot provide a government-issued ID, they may be allowed to present related documents, However, the appropriate documentation must be indicated by the record custodian.
Accessing Oklahoma Civil Court Record Via Mail
Interested members of the public may also access Oklahoma civil court records by requesting them via mail. To do so, the requesting party is required to prepare a written request to the applicable court clerk, indicating the record of interest as well as any information relevant for facilitating record search. Generally, the availability of a record and the requirements for requesting a record may vary depending on the case type and the record custodian. However, most custodians share similar record access requirements. All mail-in requests are required to contain:
- The full names of either or both parties involved in the case
- General case information -- including the date and place where the suit was filed and the court which heard the case
- The case file number, docket number and or appellate case number of the record
- The name(s) of the litigant(s) representing either party
- The personal information of the requestor (including their contact information)
Additionally, some record requests the requesting party enclose a cheque or money order payment of the applicable fees, a photocopy of the requestors government-issued photo ID, and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Using the Oklahoma Court System Map information regarding court locations and the contact information of custodians can be obtained.
Accessing Oklahoma Civil Court Records Online
While there are a variety of online resources managed by various Oklahoma state judicial districts, the state’s judicial system maintains a central online repository with which interested persons can access state-wide civil court records. These records are pooled from participating courts across the state, but typically exclude restricted information or records which have been deemed confidential by court order.
It is the responsibility of the Oklahoma State Courts Network (OSCN) to centralize court records maintained by all participating Appellate and District Courts within the jurisdiction of the state. Thus, the availability of a civil court record may be impacted by the record management history and advancement of the judicial district in which the suit was filed/heard. All public civil court records are typically accessible via the OSCN docket tool. However, where the record is unavailable, requestors may query the applicable court clerk.
Conducting an OSCN Docket Search
To retrieve a civil court record using this tool, the requesting party must furnish the search engine with the full name of the plaintiff/defendant and the location of the courthouse where the case was heard, or conduct a search based on the case file number of the record of interest.
OSCN Case Number Searches
To search for a record using its case number, the user must furnish the OSCN Docket Tool with the case file number of the desired record. Case numbers are typically designated in the format CM-2002-1234 and must be provided along with the name of the county in which the case was filed/heard, and the approximate date of filing. Similarly, civil court records maintained by appellate courts can be searched by a lower court case number. The appellate record number must also be provided with details of the place and date the suit was filed.
Name-Based Docket Searches
Civil court records can also be obtained by searching the OSCN database using the full name of either of the parties involved in the suit. To narrow down the results, users may also include the date of birth of the party and judicial district in which the case was heard. However, if the date of birth is not known, searches may simply be conducted by the full name of the plaintiff or defendant. Where either or both parties are businesses, users may indicate the business name in the last name field of the search tool. If only partial information is available, requestors may replace the missing information using the tools wild card characters -- the percentage sign (%) which can be used to replace letter combinations and underscore (_) which is useful for replacing characters.
In addition to the above, 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 a 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
Accessing Sealed Civil Court Records in Oklahoma
The right of public access to Oklahoma civil court records is not absolute. As such, some records may be expunged, sealed or restricted by court order or when requested by any of the subject(s) of the record. However, if the release of a record has proven relevant for legal, security or financial purposes, requestors may challenge these restrictions.
Given the confidentiality of sealed records, these are not accessible via the state’s online databases but may be obtained by making in-person queries to the office of the clerk of the applicable court. To access a sealed record, the requesting party is generally required to obtain a court order from an Oklahoma judge authorizing the release of the record. Requestors may also require written permission issued by either party to obtain the record. Ultimately, the availability of a court record depends on the record custodian and the case type. The following information is generally restricted and may only be released under special circumstances:
- The personal and contact information of selected persons -- including minors and juveniles
- When court-ordered, the identity of an assault or domestic violence victim may also be protected
- Identities of the juror and in some cases, witnesses/witness statements
- Records pertaining to child support and custody, paternity and adoption etc.
- Reports which are filed by expert witnesses including psychological evaluations
- Records pertaining to vulnerable adults or aged dependents.
- Financial information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers and related details.
Civil Court Records in Oklahoma Judicial Districts
Most civil cases begin in Oklahoma’s worker's compensation courts or one of the 77 district courts in the state's 26 judicial districts. Given that most are courts unified under the state Supreme Court but are run independently, persons seeking civil court records from any of the aforementioned courts will be required to meet any requirements unique to the jurisdiction. Civil court records are generally managed by the civil division of the district courts or the clerk of the court of the worker's compensation court depending on where the suit was filed/heard. If an appellate review has been conducted, then the state court of Civil Appeals will also hold documentation of the case and its updated verdict (if any).
The OSCN website provides public access to court-specific information via the Oklahoma Court System Map. With the map, interested members of the public may obtain court information and the contact details of judicial personnel providing various services within the courthouse. To find court information users may search the map by county or city name, court name or zip code.
Are there Public Records of Alternative Dispute Resolutions in Oklahoma?
ADR processes are typically confidential and as such there are no accounts of these sessions unless when released by the parties involved. All Mediators, arbitrators and third-party legal which oversee the processes are required by their non-disclosure to withhold information regarding the process and details of any settlement agreements (if reached). Nonetheless, where it becomes relevant for legal and related purposes, this information can be subpoenaed, rendering most non-disclosure agreements void. The state’s ADR system comprises 11 programs and 12 mediation centers operated under the Oklahoma Dispute Resolution Act, 12 O.S. Supp. 1997, § 1801. Oklahoma’s Early Settlement program is also sponsored and supervised by the state Supreme Court. However, the process is usually voluntary, requiring both parties to agree before proceeding.