Montana Court Records
To view Montana court records, you may access them online or in person by visiting the Montana Historical Society, State Library, or Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court in the state’s capital city of Helena. The Supreme Court serves primarily as an appellate court, which evaluates criminal and civil court case appeals. To access the District Court records, you may appear in person at one of the 56 District Courts of Montana or conduct a search online.
History of Montana Court Records
Montana’s Supreme Court boasts court records from even their territorial period before becoming a state on November 8, 1889. Through an Act of Congress, Section 9 acknowledged Montana territory judicial power in Supreme Court, District Court, Justice of the Peace Courts, and Probate Courts. Beginning in 1872 the Territorial Legislature supplied a written report of Supreme Court decisions because, before that time, most decisions about cases were exclusively verbal.
After becoming the 41st state in 1889, Montana citizens elected three Supreme Court justices, but soon the number grew to five but it was not until finally, in 1979, two additional justices were added. Around the same time the Office of Court Administration was created in 1977. To date, the Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court is responsible for all court documents.
Montana Records Availability
Montana law library, historical society, and Clerk of the Supreme Court offer access to records regarding civil cases, criminal records, transcripts from lower court proceedings, an official register of the docket of all cases seen by the court, lawyer disciplinary cases, administrative orders, as well as the Montana Roll of Attorneys.
The court records may be searched by their case number, party name search, or the cases decided by the Supreme Court within the past thirty days.
Main Court Information
The Supreme Court of Montana is an appellate court, meaning it reviews cases from the state’s district courts when the losing party makes the case to appeal the district court’s ruling due to the belief that the lower court’s decision was unfit, wrong, or unconstitutional. In limited cases, the Supreme Court does have original jurisdiction if the issue is a matter of constitutional interpretation or an emergency situation that would bar statewide relevance.
The District Courts are those of general jurisdiction and process all probate cases, felony cases, most civil cases at law and in equity, naturalization, various writs, and all civil actions that may result in finding against the state of Montana for the compensation of funds.
The judicial system also includes Montana Water Court, legislated in 1979 to facilitate and expedite cases regarding the 219,000 state law based water rights and Federal and Indian reserved water rights claims.
In 2015 the Supreme Court of Montana held proceedings on a total of 806 cases. Civil and criminal appeals accounted for most of the cases with a sum of 639. The remaining cases were original proceedings, 154, and disciplinary cases 13.
The Montana District Courts oversaw many more cases, with a grand total of 55,824 new case filings and reopened cases in 2015.