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Montana Court Records

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Montana Civil Court Records

The State of Montana provides records of proceedings, trials, judgments, and other records of civil court cases in accordance with the Montana Public Records Act. Most of these records are maintained by the clerks of the respective courts where the cases were heard, while others are maintained in designated institutions across the state.

What Are Civil Court Records

Civil Court Records are filings, proceedings, dockets, judgments, and other records of civil cases that are released to the general public under common law. They cut across various forms of cases just as small claims, misconduct, damage to properties, family and business disputes, etc. They also include restraining orders, disputes over loans, warranties, and even issues as subtle as name changes. These records are non-confidential and exclude sealed records or records that could put the lives of victims or witnesses in jeopardy.

Understanding The Montana Civil Court System

The Montana Court System is structured in a vertical three-tier system. Apart from the topmost tier, each of the other tiers comprises courts with the same class or related jurisdiction. As such, the court system is classified into the Specialty Courts, the Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, the State District Courts, and the Montana Supreme Court.

#1. Specialty Courts

Montana Specialty Courts are courts set up to hear and try specific cases. These courts were set up because of the frequency of the cases that concern them, most especially because of the citizens’ demands of quick judgments. There are four major specialty courts in Montana.

I. Drug Treatment Courts

The first Montana Drug Treatment Court was established in 1996 as provided by the Montana Code, Title 46, Chapter 1, Part 11, Section 46–1–1104. It was set up as a result of the numerous unheard drug-related cases in other Montana Courts. In 2020, there were 34 drug treatment courts in the state. In Montana, drug courts are not separate courts. Rather, they are court dockets within any of the Courts of Limited Jurisdiction or District Courts. Their jurisdiction is limited to criminal cases involving adults and juveniles as it pertains to drug abuse, alcohol abuse, illicit possession of drugs, and related matters.

II. Youth Courts

The Youth Court is an establishment under the Juvenile Justice System aimed at reducing the instances at which minor cases are heard in major courts such as the district courts. The youth courts are set up in each of the 22 judicial districts in the state of Montana. Each district court has juvenile probation officers that handle all the youth-related cases without getting the judge involved directly. These cases can be civil and criminal as well.

III. Workers’ Compensation Court

The Montana Workers’ Compensation Court was created to effectively resolve all disputes that arise and may arise among workers and their employers. These cases include civil and criminal cases as enshrined in the Occupational Disease Act (repealed) and Workers’ Compensation Act of 1975. Trials in the court are conducted in only five cities in Montana. The court is presided over by the Worker’s Compensation Judge, who is appointed by the state governor. This court does not carry out jury trials.

IV. Water Court

The Montana Water Court was established in 1979 as a direct response to over 200,000 unheard water rights claims. As such, the court handles all civil cases pertaining to water rights claims. The court is headed by the Chief Water Judge who is appointed by the Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court.

#2. Courts of Limited Jurisdiction

Montana’s Courts of Limited Jurisdiction is composed of three types of courts: Justice Courts, City Courts, and Municipal Courts. There are 61 Justice Courts in Montana, 84 City, and only 6 Municipal Courts. These three courts have similar jurisdiction but have certain disparities. Each of these courts has jurisdiction over civil cases not exceeding an amount of $12,000, small claims of $7,000 and less, disputes among parties, misconduct, and other related cases.

#3. Districts Courts

Montana District Courts have general jurisdiction over all cases in the state. They handle all kinds of cases, including criminal, felony, probate, and of course, civil cases. Also, cases from any of the Courts of Limited Jurisdiction can be appealed to the District Courts. There are 56 District Courts in Montana divided across the 22 Judicial Districts of the state. These courts are headed by the 46 district court judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

#4. Supreme Court

The Montana Supreme Court exists as the highest court in the State of Montana. It has jurisdiction over all cases captured by the other smaller courts, including civil cases. Although the Supreme Court may receive original proceeding applications, most of its cases are appeals from district courts and specialty courts like the water court and the workers’ compensation court. The court is presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

What Is Included In A Civil Court Record

A civil court record in the state of Montana could be an Opinion/Order, Appellant Brief, Appellee Brief, Writs, Subpoena, Warrant, etc. Predominantly most of these records contain the following:

  • Names and address of the litigants
  • Names and address of the counsels for the litigants
  • Name and address of the judge
  • Date of the case
  • The type of case
  • Summoned issued
  • The court’s decision

Obtaining Civil Court Records

The ease of accessing civil court records in Montana varies with the nature of the court involved. While some records can easily be accessed online, some courts have not uploaded their records to any online database yet.

How Do I Access Montana Civil Court Records in Person?

#1. Obtaining Supreme Court Records

Civil court records from the Supreme Court are categorized into three datelines. They are stored differently and also maintained differently. A requester should know the correct dateline and visit the appropriate place where the records are maintained.

  • Records from the territorial period to 1937 are maintained in the Montana State Law Library and the Montana Historical Society.
  • Records from 1938 to 2012 are maintained by the Clerk of the Supreme Court. But they are stored in two different off-site locations. Requesters are advised to first contact the clerk at least two days before visiting the office. This is to allow the records to be retrieved from the off-site location.
  • Records from 2013 to date are also maintained by the Clerk of the Supreme Court, and they are kept securely in a vault inside the office of the clerk.

State Law Library of Montana

Justice Building, 215 N Sanders

P. O. Box 203004

Helena, MT 59620–3004

Phone Number: 406–444–3660

Fax: 406–444–3603

Open: 8:00am - 5:00pm, every business day 

Montana Historical Society

225 N Roberts

P. O. Box 201201

Helena, MT 59620

Phone Number: (406) 444–2694

Fax: (406) 444–2696

Open: 9:00am - 5:00pm, every business day

Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court

Room 323, Justice Building

215 N. Sanders

P. O. Box 203003

Helena, Montana 59620–3003

Phone Number: 406–444–3858

Fax: 406–444–5705

Open: 8:00am to 5:00pm, every business day

Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court

Room 323, Justice Building

215 N. Sanders

P. O. Box 203003

Helena, Montana 59620–3003

Phone Number: 406–444–3858

Fax: 406–444–5705

Hours: 8:00am - 5:00pm, every business day

#2. For District Court

All civil court records of the 56 district courts are maintained by the respective Clerks of District Court. A requestor would first have to know the exact court where the case in focus was heard. To ease the difficulty of locating the offices of the clerks, the Montana Judicial Branch provided a Court Locator with which anyone can find the address and phone numbers of clerks of district courts. The tool also helps you locate courts across the state of Montana, as well as their judges and clerks of court. Requesters can use it using the following steps:

  • Visit the website of the Court Locator here
  • Scroll down to find two search options. You can either search by County or by City
  • If you choose to search by County, select the county of the district court. The same applies to search by city.
  • Only one of these options can be used per time.
  • Click on Go Now
  • You will be provided with the information you requested for

Most of these courts are open between 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. It’s expedient you visit within these hours. It’s also advisable you call the office of the clerk before you visit. 

#3. For Courts of Limited Jurisdiction

Civil court records for cases filed in the courts of limited jurisdiction are maintained by the clerks of the respective courts. Interested parties can obtain the address of the respective court by following several quick steps using the Court Locator tool:

  • Visit the Court Locator website here
  • Scroll to the base to search for a court address either by County or by City
  • Select the county or city relevant to you
  • Click on Go Now
  • A new page will open with a list of options on the left-hand side
  • Select Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
  • You would see the contact detail of the judge, which is also the contact details of the clerk of the court.

Visit the clerk within the hours of 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. It would have been advisable to call the clerk before visiting. But since the phone number is not listed on the Court Locator, it is not a feasible idea.

#4. For Water Court

To obtain a civil court record in person, a requestor will visit the Water Court and make an official request at:

Montana Water Court

1123 Research Drive

P. O. Box 1389

Bozeman, MT 59771

Office Phone Number: 406–586–4364

In-State Phone Number: 800–624–3270

Fax: 406–522–4131

Open: 8:00am to 5:00pm, every business day

Email: watercourt@mt.gov

#5. For Workers’ Compensation Court

To obtain any civil court record in person from the Workers’ Compensation Court, requestors must make an official request at the court office located at:

Montana Workers’ Compensation Court

1625 11th Ave.

Helena, Montana

P. O. Box 537

Helena, Montana 59624–0537

Phone Number: 406–444–7794

Fax: 406–444–7798

Open: 8:00am - 5:00pm, every business day 

How Do I Obtain Montana Civil Court Records by Mail?

To obtain Montana Civil Court Records by mail, requestors must know where the records are maintained. The mailing addresses for the Supreme Court, the Water Court, and the Workers’ Compensation Court are listed in the previous section for obtaining records in person. Anyone seeking court records from the Courts of Limited Jurisdiction or District Courts would first use the Montana Court Locator tool to get either the phone number or address of the court where the record under consideration is maintained.

How to Find Montana Civil Court Records Online?

Montana civil court records are not readily available online, except for records from the Supreme Court. These records are available in the Montana Supreme Court Case Search and Montana Supreme Court Docket Search portals.

#1. Montana Supreme Court Case Search

Records can be searched on the portal using any of the following options:

  • Case Number: As the name suggests, a requestor will input the case number of the record under consideration
  • Party Name: This requires the names of the two parties involved in the case.
  • Advanced: This option requires a host of information such as Case number, Case the, MT Citation, Date files, Document type, Names of parties and attorneys, Trial court case number, and Trial court judge
  • Recent Decision: This option allows you to browse through court cases that were tried within the past 30 days. 

Choose any of these options, input the right details, and the records will appeal in downloadable PDF format.

#2. Montana Supreme Court Docket Search

Records on this portal are classified into three:

  • Closed Dockets from 1979 to 2005
  • Closed Dockets from 2006 to date
  • Active Dockets

For each category, a requester can search for records using case attorney, case number, or case party.

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.

Can I Access Sealed Civil Court Records?

In accordance with the provisions for juvenile court records, records of litigants with developmental disabilities, and other instances in the Montana Code, sealed court records cannot be accessed by the public.

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