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What are Nebraska Civil Court Records?
Nebraska civil court records refer to various official documents detailing information pertaining to civil court proceedings. The content of a civil court record usually includes general case information as well as details of motions, briefs, orders, evidence, opinion dockets, sworn affidavit, witness testimonies, argument dockets, trial transcripts, dispositions, and other materials documented in physical or electronic form following civil court proceedings. Interested members of the public may obtain or view these records on demand. However, in special cases, some or all of a record may be rendered confidential by statute or court rule. As such, the requesting party will be required to meet specific eligibility criteria before accessing the record.
Cases Heard by Nebraska Civil Courts
The Nebraska judiciary hears a wide range of cases and is organized into various divisions, each handling specific cases in varying jurisdiction. The civil divisions of the court is tasked with hearing cases that are non-criminal in nature such as breach of contract cases, disputes involving negligence that lead to injury or death, personal injury claims, libels and slanders, property condemnation disputes, employment matters, defamation cases, family-related cases as well as other cases threatening the peaceful co-existence between people and organizations. Most civil disputes are heard in an open setting, that is, a hearing that any willing member of the public may attend.
Who can access Civil Court Records in the State of Nebraska?
The question of who can access civil court records in the state of Nebraska is answered by the Nevada Revised Statutes § 84-712.01. The rule furnishes the public with the right to access and obtain copies of civil court records maintained in various capacities by the state courts. All civil court records are presumed to be open but may, however, be withheld in cases where the record is sealed by statute or court rule. Essentially, civil court records are generated and managed in the specific judicial district court or county court where the case was handled. The clerk of the court is the official record personnel responsible for keeping and disseminating copies of court records upon request by interested parties.
What Information is Contained in a Nebraska Civil Court Record?
The information contained in a civil court record is determined by a wide range of factors before and during the case hearing. These factors include the series of malicious or deliberate events that occurred before a civil action is filed as well as the hearing and civil procedures such as motions, briefs, sworn affidavit, witness testimonies, proof of evidence, and other relevant material admissible in court as evidence. As such, the content of a civil court record is case-specific. However, the records share general characteristics which include:
- Name and personal information of parties involved
- Assigned Attorney(s) information
- Case information (court type, court location, case number, case type, case status)
- Case filing date
- Hearing dates, time, and location
- Claims and counterclaims
- Financial summary
- Findings/Sentence information
- Judge and division assigned to the case
Understanding The Nebraska Civil Court System
The Nebraska judicial body functions to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and to carry out the administration of justice in accordance with the rule of law. The various courts in the state have varying powers determined at all levels, each operating within their respective jurisdiction. The individual powers of the courts dictated by the State Constitution defines the hierarchy of judicial authority as follows:
- Nebraska Supreme Court
- Nebraska Court of Appeals
- Nebraska District Courts
- Nebraska County Courts
- Nebraska special courts including the juvenile courts, workers’ compensation court, and the various problem-solving courts
The Nebraska Supreme Court is the highest court of final authority in the state. It bears the standard responsibility of reviewing civil cases appealed from the lower courts, delivers administrative duties, and also answers all questions of constitutional law in the state. In special instances, the court has original jurisdiction over primary cases that have not been heard at a lower court prior to the Supreme Court sitting.
The Nebraska Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court tasked with providing legislative ruling over appeals challenging trial court decisions with the exception of appeals statutorily mandated to be heard by the supreme court.
The Nebraska District Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction over major civil and criminal matters. Each of the twelve district court judges presides over a specific geographical area organized to suit the legal needs of the 95 counties in the state.
The Nebraska County Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, constituting the courts where most civil cases originated. These are courts that most citizens are familiar with because they are located in each of the 95 counties and handle common cases such as probate, small claims cases, traffic infractions, as well as small claims cases and family law cases.
Nebraska Workers Compensation Court is a court of special jurisdiction composed of 7 “mobile” judges. So-called because they have state-wide jurisdiction and travel to different areas of the state to hold hearings.
How to Find Civil Court Records in Nebraska
In compliance with the 2000 Nebraska Revised Statutes §84-712, Interested persons may view, and obtain copies of civil court records upon request except in cases where access is denied based on legal grounds. The available channels for accessing Nebraska civil court records include:
- By making in-person requests to the court custodian
- By researching the online databases maintained in the different court websites or in third-party aggregate sites
- By sending written mail-in requests to the appropriate court
How To Find Nebraska Civil Court Records Online?
The Nebraska Revised Statutes § 1-805 made provisions for extensive online resources from which the public can access civil court records remotely. These online databases are maintained in a unified database as well as in county-managed repositories. Given the restrictions on civil court records, only publicly available information is accessible while sealed or confidential records are excluded. The Nebraska online tools/e-services include:
- The Nebraska Trial Court Case Search Portal
- The Nebraska Trial Court Calendars
- The Appellate Court Case portal
- The Nebraska Appellate Court online library
- The Appellate court Oral Argument Schedule
The Nebraska Trial Court Case Search Portal is an e-feature of the state’s online resource that provides detailed state-wide information on the civil cases heard in the various county trial courts. This unified case management system is otherwise known as JUSTICE and may be searched by party name using the One-Time Case Search Feature of the website. This portal reveals the general case information and may turn up many results containing different records of persons with similar names. Users are charged $15 per record search conducted. Furthermore, frequent users researching multiple records or persons in need of case-specific information may opt to a subscription plan maintained by the Nebraska government. Each account is billed $50 per annum and users can research general case information free of charge via the login portal. The searching requirements include the party names, court type, case type/subtype, name of the county where the case was heard, year of case filing, as well as the names of the judge and attorney assigned to the case. If case-specific information is also requested, a $1 search fee is paid. In cases where the search criteria is not fully known, the subscriber may render a search by utilizing the judgment date and court case number for $1 per search.
The trial court calendars are available online for courts using the JUSTICE case scheduling system. Interested persons are required to search the database by date or last name of any party involved in the case.
The appellate level courts provide e-services via a case management system known as SCCALES. The database features a case number based search that can be utilized by the members of the public using the appellate case number or the original trial court case number. However, before access is granted, a subscription plan of $50 per annum is required. General case information is accessible free of charge and case-specific details may be viewed for $1.
Interested parties may inspect appellate court opinions free of charge by utilizing the Nebraska Appellate Court online library which serves as a state-wide repository of officially published online opinions.
The appellate court calendars and oral arguments may be viewed by date or month of publication by using the Appellate court Oral Argument Schedule.
Similarly, 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
How To Access Nebraska Civil Court Records in Person?
Civil court records in the state of Nebraska may also be accessed via in-person courthouse visits by interested persons. Per state statutes, the court custodians set some limitations on the online dissemination of court records. Hence, confidential and sealed records are strictly available by in-person physical requests only. To successfully render a civil record request, the following steps are recommended:
Step 1: Find the Record Custodian
It is the primary responsibility of various court clerks to generate, manage, and disseminate civil court records. As a rule of thumb for looking up civil court records in person, the requesting party is required to locate the custodian of the specific court in which the case was handled. Other contributing factors that may affect the location of a record is the status of the case, how long ago the case was closed, and local court storage guidelines. Most small claims civil cases involving $53,000 or less are handled in the county courts while major civil case records are typically housed in the judicial district courts. On the other hand, old civil court records may be stored in off-site locations for which the requester may be asked to return. Records of cases reviewed by the appellate-level courts may be accessed in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, as well as from the particular district court where the case was originally heard. Querying parties are required to consult the District Court or County Court contact directories.
Step 2: Gather All Relevant Information
After ascertaining the location of the record of interest, the requesters may then proceed to gather case-specific information unique to the case. This relevant information limits the case search thereby saving time and resources. The court clerks may have court records retrieval guidelines unique to the court. Primarily, the general case information required for inspecting these records includes the case number, names of the parties involved in the case, the approximate filing date, the date the case was closed, the appellate case number (if applicable), and the name of the presiding judge. Additionally, interested persons with average internet knowledge may download and print the relevant record request form to promote efficiency.
Step 3: Provide Identification & Fee Requirements
Generally, requesters are required to provide the estimated costs of search and/or copies before a record request is processed by the court custodian. Nebraska Freedom of Information Act allows the public the right to requests without stating the purpose of request. However, the provision of a valid government-issued photo ID is necessary to make copies of records. This is especially important for persons who are requesting restricted records/or information. Most sealed records are only accessible after a reasonable motion to unseal petition is addressed to the court and a court order is authorized.
Step 4: Make the Request
During normal business days and hours, requesters are required to visit the office of the record custodians with the information detailed in the first three steps. An appointment schedule is recommended to avoid fruitless journeys. Most courthouses provide self-help terminals where the record of interest may be viewed and inspected. If the record of interest is not available on the terminal, chances are that the record is confidential, the case is old, or that the requester is looking at the wrong courthouse. The information featured in the public terminals are general case information and if specific details and/or copies are needed, a manual record request form should be filed and necessary fees paid.
How To Obtain Nebraska Civil Court Records via Mail?
To obtain civil court records by mail, residents must first establish that the court offers this service. Interested parties can confirm this by contacting the clerk of court using the District Courts Clerk Directories or County Courts Clerk Directories or by visiting the court’s official webpage. Mailing details, as well as the cost for copying official court records, can be found on most court websites. While the rules vary with different clerks, most courts require a physical address for mailing records. Payment for records may be made by credit card or check. Interested parties are advised to include a self-addressed stamped return envelope. Requesting parties are also required to query the clerk on other requirements limited to the court. Obtaining records by mail may take 3 days to 2 weeks determining on the court and the difficulty in finding the record.
Are All Nebraska Civil Court Records Online?
The state of Nebraska features an extensive court case search database. Following the introduction of the JUSTICE one-time case search system in 2005, the online availability of records in the state grew with time. Presently, all the 93 county courts, as well as 92 district courts (with the exception of Douglas County), are part of the unified JUSTICE case management system. However, not all civil court records are available online. Confidential records are not available for online viewing and inspection. Furthermore, some revealing information is withheld from public inspection to prevent misuse and identity theft. The information available online include:
- Case details —date, trial outcome, nature of the case, name of the presiding judge
- Biodata of the plaintiff(s) and the defendant(s) as well as any associated attorneys (if available)
- Financial summary information including all fees paid as regards to the case
- A detailed register of actions featuring all actions prior to, during, and after the case is closed (if available)