How to Obtain Court Records in Washington D.C.
Specialized subdivisions within the District of Columbia’s superior courts reduce the burden on judges and allow residents more attentive service. Among the divisions are family courts, dispute resolution, probate, and a domestic violence unit.
Superior court in D.C. is the general trial court that has jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters. Some misdemeanor issues may be resolved by a magistrate judge, such as traffic violations or tickets for local ordinance issues. Family courts have jurisdiction over juvenile cases, adoptions, divorces, custody, and the like. Probate court handles wills and estates under the Office of the Auditor Master. The civil division of superior court hears cases such as landlord-tenant disputes and small claims.
Above the superior court is one court of appeals equivalent to a supreme court in other states. This body reviews cases decided in superior court and hears appeals of disputed cases, including those from administrative agencies. Judges at this level also offer interlocutory opinions, which assist superior courts during cases.
Getting court records
Having a record of a court case can be helpful if you need a protection order enforced, a tenant evicted, to collect a settlement, or to prove your innocence.
The D.C. court system allows online case searches using this page: https://www.dccourts.gov/superior-court/cases-online. If you need documents or transcripts related to a specific case, contact the clerk of the court.
Be advised that some cases may include confidential information that is not available to the public, including details of juvenile matters and any medical information or identification of some crime victims.
When a person dies, his estate is usually processed through the probate division of the superior court, which ensures that all debts and taxes have been paid before assets may be sold or divided among heirs. If there is no will detailing how the estate should be divided, the court makes the decision. To research a probated estate, start by searching here: https://www.dccourts.gov/superior-court/cases-online. Documents may be obtained through the clerk of the probate division.
When a marriage is dissolved, a document called a decree is created that defines what happens to shared property, whether one party gets alimony or child support, how children should be cared for, and other matters from the marriage. Having a copy of a decree can clarify issues that arise. To get a copy, contact the clerk of the superior court.
The U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia is responsible for ushering people and businesses through the bankruptcy process. This process ensures that creditors are paid when assets are liquidated, or that a payment plan is created allowing for payment of debt. To find out more about these cases and other jurisdiction of the federal courts, start with www.pacer.gov. Records may be requested from the U.S. District Court with jurisdiction.