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What are Maine Civil Court Records?
Maine Civil Court records consist of official documents detailing the progression of civil cases in state courts. These records are maintained from when the suit or case is filed to appeals and when the final judgment is passed on that case. They include all of the actions, affidavits, motions, judgments, penalties and/or settlements as well as transcripts of audio and video recordings of court proceedings. Interested members of the public may find Maine civil court records in the jurisdiction where the case was heard.
Understanding the Maine State Civil Court System
Maine’s Civil Court System consists of three courts: the supreme court, superior courts, and district courts. The highest court in Maine’s civil court system, the Supreme Judicial Court is the final resort in any civil case as it overrules the lower courts. Below it is the Superior Court which has appellate jurisdiction over the lower District Court. The District Court is the lowest court in Maine’s Civil Court system. It hears all civil disputes and usually sits without a jury. Cases heard in Maine Civil Courts involve:
- Cases relating to liens and other property matters
- Breaches of contract and damages for loss caused by the breach
- Debt collection
- Disputes between landlords and tenants.
- Traffic infractions
What is included in a Maine Civil Court Record?
Even though civil court records vary, depending on the case and factors such as the nature of the dispute, most civil court records typically include:
- Details of the complaint or allegation
- Any amendments or substitutions to the complaint following the initial report
- The personal information of the complainant/plaintiff and the defendant
- Court summons and orders of notices
- Filings, affidavits, and evidence presented by either party
- The trial transcripts including appearances, motions, and oral arguments
- The defendant’s plea
- Memorandum of decision and final judgments
- Penalties and agreed-upon financial settlements
- Any probationary conditions that apply to a judgment
Other information that may be found in a Maine Civil Court Record include:
- Law enforcement records and court records
- Probation files
- DNA and Fingerprint information (not usually collected for juvenile civil records)
- Other information collected throughout the court process
Obtaining Maine State Civil Court Records
Maine State Civil Court records are maintained by clerks of the court where the case was heard. All requests for records are directed to the clerk’s office. Parties interested in making requests must complete a Request for Records Search form, which can be downloaded on the state’s judiciary website or obtained at the clerk’s office.
Accessing Maine State Civil Court Records in Person
Members of the public who wish to access a Civil Court record in person must go to the clerk’s office at the courthouse where the case was heard. A research fee is required, except for persons who are party to the case.
Accessing Maine Civil Court Records by Mail
Maine Civil Courts require a handling charge for each mailing in addition to the standard cost of access to the records. Upon providing the details required in the downloaded “Request for Records Search Form”, the requester must enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope with the form and mail it to the Judicial Branch Service Center at:
Judicial Branch Service Center
PO Box 266
Lewiston, ME 04243
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.
Are Maine Civil Court Records Public?
Yes, most Maine Civil Court records are available for public scrutiny. However, some records may be sealed from public viewing by court order or state/federal statutes. For example, Maine’s statutes stipulate that certain juvenile records of civil nature are confidential and not accessible by the public.
Are Maine Civil Court Records Automatically Sealed?
No. According to Maine’s civil statutes, there is no provision for automatically sealing or expungement of court records (except for Juvenile Civil Court records). In determining whether or not a record should be sealed, the judge weighs the individual’s right to privacy and the general public’s right to access the information. The aim is to determine if the public’s right to the information substantially outweighs the privacy interests of the parties involved.
Can I Access Sealed Maine Civil Court Records?
No. Unless one is a party directly involved in the case, civil court records are confidential and generally not accessible by the public once they have been sealed. However, third-parties (in this case, law enforcement and justice agencies) can still access a sealed record if a court order authorizes their access.
Are Trial Transcripts Open to the Public?
Yes, trial transcripts may be accessed by members of the public. Maine Civil Courts allow members of the public to order a transcript for a reference only. On the other hand, parties involved in the civil case can order a transcript directly by completing a transcript order form (CV R–165).. This form can be obtained from the clerks’ office or downloaded. To complete a transcript order form, the following information is needed:
- The name of the case and Docket Number
- The date of the hearing
- The start time of the case
- The requesting party’s contact information.
After submitting the completed form to the clerk’s office in the court where the case was heard, the requesting party will receive a notice of estimated costs and an estimated completion date.