Iowa Court Records
Where to Find Iowa Civil Court Records
In Iowa, contract disputes, interpretation of constitutional rights, and family matters are civil lawsuits, and are first heard at the District Courts in the County. However, appeal cases are filed with the Supreme Court, which holds the power to keep the case within the Supreme Court or transfer it to the Court of Appeals for review. In respect to the Iowa Judicial Branch's commitment to operating an open court system, requests for civil court records of cases heard in the District Court can be made to the Clerk of the Court's Office where the case was filed initially. Records from the Appellate and Supreme Courts can be ordered from the Clerk of the Iowa Supreme Court's Office. Civil Court documents can also be accessed online through repositories maintained by the Iowa Judicial Branch, and third party websites like CourtRecords.us.
Are Iowa Civil Court Records Public?
Per the Iowa Open Records Act, members of the public possess the right to examine, copy, publish, or disseminate information found in a public record, unless the court record in question is confidential and cannot be disclosed. Granting access to civil court records is a fundamental right of the citizens of Iowa, and it drives transparency and accountability in the State's judicial system. However, Chapter 22, sub-section 7 of the Open Records Act, places a limit on records that can be accessed by the public due to the sensitive and confidential nature.
Types of Cases in Iowa Civil Courts
The District Court in Iowa, which is present in every County, hears all civil cases, and it follows the due process of listening to the claims and evidence presented by both parties involved in the trial. Civil cases heard in the court typically fall under three different types: family law matters (divorce, child support, and custody), tort law matters (property damages, injury to person and product liability), and contract law matters.
- Family Law: These cases generally involve situations in which a couple is either getting divorced or getting a marriage annulled. In this situation, there is a need to discuss child custody issues, determine the amount of child support payable periodically for the non-custodial parent, and then if there is alimony to be paid when the divorce or annulment is approved and comes into effect.
- Tort Law: This type of case determines whether an individual should be punished for an injury to another, while also determining the compensation due to the injured party for damaged property, health, or well-being.
- Contract Law: This is when a party breaches an agreement made with another party to deliver a service or product. It could also be a case of negligence or breach of warranty or misrepresentation or fraud.
- Small Claims
What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases in Iowa?
There are several differences between criminal cases and civil cases, including:
- Criminal cases have greater punishments like prison time, but penalties in civil cases are majorly monetary.
- Defendants in criminal cases must have an attorney either provided by themselves or the state. In civil cases, if a party cannot afford an attorney, they can represent themselves.
- Crimes committed are generally considered to be against the state and therefore are prosecuted by the state. Civil cases result from a wronged party filing a motion in court and seeking compensation.
Examples of cases heard in a criminal court include: assault and battery, murder, child or domestic abuse, arson, burglary, larceny, kidnapping, rape, robbery, driving under the influence, public intoxication, blackmail, tax evasion, and embezzlement. The types of cases heard in a civil court include divorce, breach of contract or warranty, child custody and support, alimony, and bankruptcy.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records In Iowa?
Iowa civil court records can be accessed at the Clerk of Court's Office in the district courts that presided over the case through written or in-person requests. The application can also be made at the Clerk of the Iowa Supreme Court's Office for civil cases heard at the Appellate or Supreme Courts. The custodian of the records will promptly respond to the request made, signifying the availability or non-availability of the document being requested. Suppose more information is needed to narrow the search. In that case, the Clerk's Office will communicate this to the requestor. The fees required to search and make copies of the court files vary among counties.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?
To get the Iowa civil court records online, the Iowa Judicial Branch created two online self-service tools that can be accessed by all courts in the state and from the requester's home. The self-service tools are the Iowa Courts Online Search and the Iowa Court eFile system, which help to obtain civil court files.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as the search is not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
What Is Included In an Iowa Civil Court Record?
Information provided by civil court records in Iowa include;
- Allegations by the plaintiff and demanded compensation
- Notice served to the defendant
- Reply to the civil complaint by the defendant
- Details of the attorneys' involved in the case
- Revised complaint
- Transcripts of the court processes by the court reporter
- Facts of the case
- Verdicts by the judge
How to Access Iowa Civil Court Records For Free
Iowa has no provision for requesters who want to obtain Iowa civil court records for free. However, the repository of civil court records in Iowa may choose not to charge for the services provided.
How to Seal Civil Court Records in Iowa
Interested parties that want to seal a record in Iowa will have to file a motion at the Clerk of District Court Office. As seen in Iowa Supreme court rule 16.1209, when the motion to seal a court record is approved, documents used in filing for appeal cases can also be sealed. Also, documents filed online through an electronic document management system can be sealed without court orders or motions. The Clerk of the Civil Court manages System-sealed filings, and once the details are inputted on the electronic document management system, the record is automatically sealed.
How to Access Sealed Civil Court Records in Iowa
In Iowa, sealed civil court documents are still referenced in the docket entry where interested citizens can obtain information on civil cases in the state, but will not be available for viewing. Only the persons involved in the case and the court can examine sealed civil records in Iowa.