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Where to Find Arkansas Civil Court Records

Civil court records are generated from the court proceedings of civil cases involving legal disputes between two or more parties in Arkansas Courts. Civil proceedings in Arkansas are governed by the Arkansas laws of Civil Procedure. The documents generated during these proceedings include; petitions or complaints, pleadings, depositions, etc. According to state laws, these records are open to the public through the services offered by the state's judicial website and third- party sites such as Arkansas.CourtRecords.Org

Are Arkansas Civil Court Records Public?

Yes, Arkansas's civil records are open to the public.

The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act ensures that all residents and citizens of the state have the fundamental right to access, request, inspect and receive copies of all public records unless exempted by law.

The Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure also mandates that all trials and hearings in Arkansas courts be made accessible to the public, except otherwise provided by law.

Types of Cases in Arkansas Civil Courts

The Arkansas state court system consists of the Circuit and District courts. The Circuit court has general jurisdiction over civil cases in the state. The civil case types heard in these courts include:

Contract civil cases

  • Contract Product Liability
  • Breach of contract disputes
  • Insurance

Real Property

  • Foreclosure
  • Property line disputes
  • Land Condemnation
  • Rent, Lease, and Ejectment

Torts - Injury cases

  • Assault, Libel, and Slander
  • Motor Vehicle Product Liability
  • Personal Injury- Medical Malpractice
  • Personal Injury: Health Care

Torts - Property cases

  • Fraud
  • Personal Property Damage
  • Property Damage Product Liability

Civil Rights cases

  • Employment of citizens with disabilities,
  • Education
  • Housing/Accommodations
  • Welfare

Prisoner Petitions cases

  • Civil Rights
  • Death Penalty
  • Motions to Vacate Sentence
  • Conditions of Confinement

Labor cases

  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
  • Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Labor/Management Reporting & Disclosure Act

Bankruptcy cases

  • Appeal
  • Withdrawal

Civil cases of Intellectual Property

  • Copyrights
  • Patents
  • Trademark

Social Security cases

  • Disability Insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Retirement and Survivors Benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income

Federal Tax cases of:

  • IRS-Third Party
  • Taxes

Immigration cases

  • Habeas Corpus - (unlawful detention)
  • Naturalization Application
  • Other Immigration litigation

What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases in Arkansas?

Crime or Civil Wrong

Criminal cases involve actions or offenses where a violation of public law occurs, and the court is enforcing the state codes of behavior. At the same time, civil cases involve legal disputes or conflicts between individuals, businesses, or organizations, mostly over money.

Initiator

Civil cases are typically initiated by a wronged party called "the plaintiff," who files a legal complaint against another individual or business, "the defendant," for failure to perform a legal duty.

While the government initiates a criminal case through its representative, the district attorney. The attorney files a complaint or indictment against individuals or entities suspected of criminal behavior against the people of the state of Arkansas.

Penalty

In all civil cases, the wronged party simply seeks compensation or remedy from the defendant for a civil wrong. The court mandates the defendant after being proven to have committed the wrong to rectify the situation through remedies, which may be: damages, injunction, or settlement.

However, in criminal cases, if the defendant is found to be guilty of a crime, he or she will receive a sentence which may be incarceration, fines, probation, or even capital punishment.

Filing The complaint

In Arkansas civil cases, the victim of a civil wrong, the plaintiff is responsible for filing a complaint against the defendant and requesting compensation or damages. In contrast, in criminal cases, it is not the victim's responsibility to file the case but the state's.

Jurors

In the state of Arkansas is that; there are usually 12 jurors hearing criminal and civil cases. In civil cases, only 9 of the 12 jurors must reach the same decision for the verdict to be made and accepted by the court. However, in criminal cases, all 12 jurors must make a unanimous decision.

Number of plaintiffs

In a civil case in Arkansas, there may be more than one plaintiff or defendant, but in a criminal case, the plaintiff is always the state of Arkansas.

In essence, any conflict or dispute that is not in violation of criminal laws in the state of Arkansas is an eligible civil case.

How Do I Find Civil Court Records In Arkansas?

Depending on the type of case, civil court records in Arkansas are maintained by district and circuit courts in the state where the cases were heard. The Clerk of Courts is responsible for maintaining and disseminating these records to the public.

An inquirer seeking civil court records must first identify the right court depending on the case of interest and then locate the court where the case was heard with the information provided to the state judicial website. The circuit courts and state district courts hear civil cases of claims of $5000.00 - $25,000.00 in controversy, while local district courts handle cases with sums less than that.

Some court records can be accessed online, and if not, the inquirer may visit the court in- person to request for records.

How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?

Federal courts in Arkansas file their cases electronically most of the time using the Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF). Members of the public may access cases filed in this system via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records service, PACER.

The State of Arkansas uses two online systems to maintain and ease public access to civil court records, including CourtConnect and Contexte.

These systems provide documents, information, and filings from circuit and district courts within the state.

Courtconnect is an online public access portal to case information for most courts in the state. Members of the public can run searches on this system using a party name, case/docket number, or judgments.

Although not all courts in Arkansas use this system.

All courts within the state using the system are provided in the Courtconnect database. To be available on Courtconnect, a court must first use the Contexte case filing system.

What Is Included In an Arkansas Civil Court Record?

A civil court record generally consists of all documents generated during a civil lawsuit proceeding in an Arkansas court. They may include:

  • The official complaint or petition that started the case. It includes the plaintiff's statements specifying the issues of the case with facts and the legal basis.
  • The defendant usually files an answer in response to the plaintiff's petition.
  • Counterclaims, which may be filed by the defendant as a reply to the complaint. It, in turn, sues the plaintiff for an injury as well.
  • The legal names and addresses of the plaintiffs and defendants.
  • Details of the requested damages or property to be recovered.
  • Summons, notifying the defendant of the lawsuit, and a proof of service that it was delivered.
  • Depositions, interviews, and arbitrations.
  • All evidence provided during the cases. These may include witnesses, receipts, estimates, photographs, etc.
  • Judgments.

How to Access Arkansas Civil Court Records For Free

Online record services provided by the Arkansas judicial website provides access to civil court records for free, charges only apply for copying of these records.

Tangible and physical records may also be inspected for free at a local court; the only fees that may apply are also for copying and certification. The requester may, however, have the court fees waived with the help of the local legal aid office or the court clerk by filling out the appropriate waiver forms.

How to Seal Civil Court Records in Arkansas

To seal a court record simply means to restrict public access to the record. In Arkansas, Rule 5 of the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure guides the procedures involved in redaction and sealing of court records in the state of Arkansas:

  • An individual who intends to have a record sealed must first file a motion to seal the record at the court where the case was originally heard.
  • The motion could be written with the help of an attorney, or the individual may simply use the official forms provided by the Arkansas courts.
  • The motion must have details of the request, specifying what records or parts of the records the individual is requesting restriction for. It should also contain a legal basis on which the request is being made.
  • Parties in the case will be notified of the motion to seal the record to allow them to support or reject the motion.
  • In Arkansas, when a motion is filed to seal a record, the information in those records will remain confidential until the court has ruled on the motion.
  • The court will conduct a hearing on the motion to seal.
  • The court will examine all evidence and testimonies from the parties in the case of supporting or rejecting the motion. The order will only be granted if the court identifies compelling privacy, circumstance, or safety interest that surpasses or outweighs public access to the record.
  • Once the order is granted, the court clerk is mandated to restrict access to the record on all available storage media.

State laws mandate the court to use the least restrictive methods when sealing a material. That is, the record will be sealed exactly according to the court's direction, and the unsealed parts should still be made available to the public.

The following information must still be available to the public after whole or part of a record has been sealed:

  • The case or docket number(s);
  • The date that the case was filed;
  • The name of the document;
  • The names of the parties involved
  • The notation "case sealed"; and
  • The order to seal.

How to Access Sealed Civil Court Records in Arkansas.

Members of the public are restricted access to sealed civil court records for a good reason. The court may only grant access to the sealed records according to Administrative Order Number 19, Section (VIII).

Individuals seeking access to sealed records must provide the request in writing and it -must be notarized. The requester must provide extraordinary reasons to be granted access. That is, the public interest, in this case, must outweigh the harm in disclosure of the said record.

If this order is granted, the judicial authority may restrict how the information in the records will be used.

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