How to Obtain Court Records in Wisconsin
There are 237 municipal courts at the base of Wisconsin’s judiciary system. These courts of limited jurisdiction handle misdemeanors, first time DUI cases, and violations of municipal ordinances like trespassing and health codes.
Above municipal courts are trial courts called circuit courts which handle all general civil and criminal proceedings. Most counties have at least one circuit court but the smallest counties may share one. Circuit court handles family issues, juvenile cases, probate, and other subdivisions of law.
The intermediate court of appeals in Wisconsin hears automatic appeals of some cases, particularly those concerning the death penalty or life imprisonment. Other appeals are taken selectively. The state supreme court is at the top of the judiciary, hearing selected cases from lower courts and occasionally taking an original case (not previously heard in lower court). The supreme court also presides over the state bar.
Finding court records
Court documents serve many purposes, including as proof that you’ve completed your term of probation, as a roadmap for situations arising from divorce, as a permanent record of heirs to an estate, and to get an order enforced, whether for a financial settlement or protection from a dangerous person.
Some court records may be considered confidential due to the inclusion of sensitive material like medical records or juvenile case information. Court officials may withhold or remove information from those records.
This page allows you to search for cases in Wisconsin’s trial courts: https://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl. To get official documents or a copy of the trial transcript, you should then contact the clerk of the court where the case was handled, using this directory: https://www.wicourts.gov/contact/directories.htm.
When a person dies, his will must be filed with the clerk of the local county. Cases regarding contested wills and estates are heard in circuit court. If you are looking for information on the division of a deceased person’s property among his heirs, start with the court system search engine here https://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl. Otherwise, contact the clerk of the county where the individual lived.
A decree is the court-approved agreement between two people who are divorcing. The decree spells out the terms of the divorce, including division of jointly-owned property, child support, custody, alimony, and other items. To get a copy of your divorce decree, contact the clerk of the court where the divorce was granted using this directory: https://www.wicourts.gov/contact/directories.htm.
Individuals and businesses with cash flow problems may face overwhelming debt and choose to apply for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a process handled by federal courts, not state courts. It allows the applicant to pay off creditors according to a schedule and often requires selling assets or restructuring a business. Each state has a branch of U.S. District Court, which also tries criminal cases and civil lawsuits. To research these cases or find bankruptcy information go to www.pacer.gov.