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What are Vermont Civil Court Records?
A civil court record is an officially recognized collection of all proceedings, events, evidence, warrants, dockets, and other documents created in relation to a civil court case. Civil court cases are cases deemed by law to be non-criminal. Examples are a breach of contracts, estate administration, land disputes, tort claims, landlord/tenant cases, foreclosures, personal injury, and professional malpractices.
Understanding Vermont Civil Court System
The Vermont state judiciary system is composed of a single appellate court (the Supreme court) and a trial court unit (Superior court) in each of the 14 counties. Each superior court has the following five divisions:
- Probate; and
The civil division hears cases on civil matters and small claims (up to $5000) and takes appeals from the probate court. Typically, civil court proceedings in Vermont are not designed for pro se litigants (persons who wish to represent themselves in court). However, willing persons may represent themselves in court, provided they fully understand the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure and the Vermont Rules of Evidence.
What’s included in a Civil Court Record?
The information provided in a civil court record varies, depending on the case. Some of these include:
- The complaint (substituted and amended copies);
- Proof of service;
- Court orders;
- Complaints (cross, third party, and amendments);
- Pleadings on the case;
- Decision extract of the case;
- Court judgment file and (modified versions as the case may be); and,
- Issued and executed orders
Obtaining Civil Court Records
Copies of Vermont state civil court records may be obtained in person, by mail or online. Most courts require that requesters fill out a request form and submit it to the clerk of the courthouse where the case was heard. In addition to the details of the requestor (full names, phone number, mailing address), the superior court county, the docket number of the case record, the type of court record requested, and a request for emergency processing (where applicable) must be clearly stated in the form. A self-addressed stamped envelope must be submitted with the request form, regardless of the route of delivery. Processing commences upon the payment of fees directly at the courthouse.
Additionally, 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 Do I Access Vermont Civil Court Records in Person?
An enquirer may walk into the courthouse during business hours to request for inspection of court records. The court clerk makes the records accessible by statute available at a small fee. Vermont court records are generally viewed at a fee unless the requestor elects to photograph the documents by means of a phone or other device. Also, the court processing time for submitted requests in Vermont is usually three business days.
How Do I Find Vermont Civil Court Records by Mail?
Similarly, the requestor may elect delivery by mail. Call the court clerk’s office to enquire about requirements for submitting mail requests for a court record. Usually, each request must include a completed request form or written request, a self-addressed stamped envelope, and fees for the number of copies requested. These copies will be delivered by secured mail.
How to Find Vermont Civil Court Records Online?
Detailed records of civil and small claim cases including docket numbers for up to five cases are available online, all at an activation fee for all superior courts in Vermont. A user account must be created in order to use this service. Also, certain counties do not have records of cases filed before 2012. Such records may have to be obtained directly at the courthouse where the case was tried. The same rule applies to obtain copies of court records as the online service is restricted to a mere lookup. Courts records sealed from public view are not available online.
Are all Vermont Civil Court Records Public?
Civil court records like any other are accessible to the general public in Vermont, in keeping with the commitment of the judiciary system to the transparency of processes to the public. A number of exceptions to the rule do, however, exist:
- Juvenile cases;
- Probate court cases involving adoption or health issues;
- Financial details of cases (such as social security numbers, income and assets documents)
Certain portions of publicly accessible records are also reserved from public access, such as:
- Search warrants;
- Reports produced by correction programs;
- Health evaluation reports;
- Records of jurors;
- Investigative reports preceding the trial of the case.
Can I Access Sealed Civil Court Records?
Sealed civil court records may be accessed only by persons directly involved in the case. Access is however granted upon determining the request to be of good cause. Where the court record custodian denies access, the requestor can appeal by filling out and submitting an appeal form.
Are Probate Records Open to the Public?
With the exception of adoption and guardianship records, probate records are available at the Vital records and population data unit of the Vermont state department of Health.
What Records are Automatically Sealed by Vermont Statute?
Certain records are sealed from public access by Vermont statute for a number of reasons:
- Such a case has been appealed at a higher court of jurisdiction;
- The case has been dismissed or the defendant has been discharged and acquitted;
- The case is sealed by the presiding judge.
- Court administrative records of cases sealed by statute
Are Trial Transcripts Open to the Public?
A trial refers to a handwritten proceeding of the court trial, usually transcribed from an audio or video recording. Trial transcripts are not accessible to members of the public, except persons involved in the case who wish to make an appeal to the supreme court against the handling court’s decision.