Are Mississippi Court Records Public?
Although the Mississippi Public Records Act (MPRA) enacted in 1983 grants members of the public access to public records, some judicial records are explicitly exempted by the statutes. However, as an independent, separate, and equal arm of the government, the Mississippi Judiciary actively practices an open court system in line with the Mississippi Constitution. In its Statement of Policy Regarding Openness and Availability of Public Records, the Mississippi Judiciary grants members of the public access to records in its custody, including court records. Records that may not be available for public inspection include those sealed by court orders, documents filed under seal, and those exempted by the statutes.
Some of the records exempted from public inspection by the MPRA include information technology records such as source code, IT infrastructure details, security plans, and authentication credentials. Others are the personal information of law enforcement agents, judicial officers, and their spouses.
The clerks of the court, who are court record custodians, may deny some record requests if the requests might interrupt the operations of the court or a judicial agency. They may also deny applications if the records being sought are exempted from the statutes or capable of exposing the security architecture and locations of judicial offices.
What Shows Up on a Mississippi Court Records Search
A Mississippi court record provides insight into court proceedings. Record searches are useful for legal, investigative, and personal purposes. For example, court records can be useful for property division, proof of legal documentation, and judicial research. All court records are created according to MS Rules of Court.
In Mississippi, most court records are available to the public. A requester can conduct a court record search online or in person at the court where the case was filed. A court record search allows access to case information like a case number, status, type, case party's name, charges, dispositions, filing date, judge's name, and attorney's name.
How Do I Find Court Records in Mississippi?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Mississippi is to identify the court that tried the cases and submit a request to the clerk of such court. It is easy to identify the court that tried a case if the offense committed is known. The courts in Mississippi and the types of cases they hear are:
- Intervention Courts: Intervention Courts are courts created for specific purposes. A common example is the Mississippi Drug Court which sits on drug abuse cases, among other non-violent and juvenile offenses. To find records from the Intervention Court, requestors may submit requests at the Drug Courts.
- Municipal Courts: Municipal Courts are primarily in the cities. Cases tried at Municipal Courts include city traffic violations, misdemeanor offenses, and ordinances. Interested persons may submit requests at the Municipal Courthouse in cities.
- Justice Courts: Justice Courts in Mississippi have jurisdiction over small claims cases of $3,500 and less. Preliminary hearings for felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic offenses that occur outside a municipality are also tried at Justice Courts. Interested individuals can visit any of the 82 Justice Courts in Mississippi to request court records.
- Youth Courts: Youth Courts have jurisdiction over abuse and neglect cases involving minors. Civil and criminal offenses committed by persons below 18 years are also brought before the Youth Courts. Juvenile records are exempted from public disclosure, and their requests are usually denied.
- County Courts: County Courts were set up in counties with a high population to assist the Justice, Chancery, and Circuit Courts. County Courts are present in about 22 Mississippi counties, and they try criminal cases transferred by the Circuit Court. The court also hears cases involving the recovery of properties with values less than $200,000. Requesters can visit County Courts locations and apply for court records.
- Chancery Courts: Chancery Courts try cases involving divorce, wills, adoption, and custody of minors. In counties with no County Courts, Chancery Courts preside over disputes involving juveniles. The clerks of the Chancery Courts keep the court's records, and interested persons may contact them for their records of interest.
- Circuit Courts: The Mississippi Circuit Courts have a wide jurisdiction over civil matters, where the value of the dispute is over $200,000. The Circuit Court also has jurisdiction over criminal matters and hears appeals from cases decided by the lower courts. Requesters can inspect and copy court records from the office of clerks of the Circuit Courts.
- Court of Appeals: The Court of Appeals in Mississippi handles cases assigned to it by the Supreme Court. It also hears civil and criminal appeals on proceedings in which the law has been decided, but the facts of the case are in dispute.
- Supreme Court: The Mississippi Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort. It reviews the decisions of the Court of Appeals and some rulings made by the lower trial courts.
How to Request Mississippi Court Records in Person
The Clerk of the Appellate Courts is the custodian of records of cases decided at the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Written requests for court records may be sent to:
First floor, Carroll Gartin Justice Building
450 High Street
P.O. Box 249
Jackson, MS 39201
The inspection and copying of court records are not free. The Mississippi statutes allow each public body to charge a fee commensurate with the minimum labor cost of finding and duplicating the public records. As such, the clerk of the Appellate Courts has fixed charges for inspecting and duplicating copies as follows:
- Regular copying: $0.50 per page
- Copying from bound volumes of records: $2 per page
- Copy of mandate: $10
Both the Mississippi Annotated Codes and the Mississippi Courts Public Records Policy are reticent on the issue of waivers. Hence, custodians are not mandated constitutionally to issue fee waivers for public record requests.
Limited space in the Clerk of the Appellate Court's office necessitated the transfer of some very old court records to the Mississippi Department of Archive and History (MDAH). Interested persons can apply for court records that are no longer available at the clerk's office at the MDAH.
State Law Library in Mississippi
The Mississippi State Law Library, a department of the Supreme Court, also has records of decisions from the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in its custody. The library charges patrons 15¢ per page to make photocopies, while library staff pays 30¢ per page. Requests may be submitted to the State Library at:
2nd floor, Gartin Justice Building
450 High Street
Jackson, MS 39201
Intending requestors may call (601) 359-3672 for inquiries.
Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration
Records in the custody of the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) include financial and administrative records of the courts. Requestors of such court documents can file their requests in writing and submit at:
501 North West Street
Jackson, MS 39201
The requests do not need to be delivered in person. They may be forwarded by mail or submitted via email. It can also be transmitted via facsimile to (601) 359-3402. The fees charged for copying and inspecting records from the DFA varies depending on the size of the documents. A standard 8½ x 11 inches size costs $0.25 for black and white copies, while the same size costs $0.50 for colored prints. Other sizes attract extra costs.
Mississippi court clerks usually respond to court records requests within 14 days after the receipt of the request. Requestors whose applications are denied must be notified while also stating the reasons for such rejection. However, such denials can be appealed for a review by the Supreme Court Administrator. The notice of appeals must be filed within 14 days after the notice of rejection of the records and submitted at:
Supreme Court Administrator
P.O. Box 117
Jackson, MS 39205-0117
Mississippi Court Records Public Access
Mississippi court records are available online, and members of the public can access them remotely. The Mississippi Electronic Court (MEC) has the court records of most Mississippi courts online. MEC was chosen as the case management system because it is already in use in over 200 federal districts and bankruptcy courts. Most judges are familiar with it, and this makes transitioning to the online database seamless. Interested persons can query the MEC for Mississippi court records. The Mississippi State Law Library also has some court records like law reviews and journals available online.
How to Conduct a Mississippi Court Record Search by Name
A record seeker might be able to conduct a court records search by name via the Mississippi Electronic Courts (MEC). Public users are required to register as PAMEC (Public Access to Mississippi Electronic Courts) users. There are fees associated with using the account. Typically, users must pay $0.20 per page for the number of pages that result from any search.
Alternatively, requesters can conduct a court record search by name at the court where the case was filed. The search criteria are usually by case party name, attorney name, or judge name. The court might not charge fees for viewing court records. However, retrieving copies of court records typically comes with a fee.
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
The Mississippi Judiciary has a General Docket tool that can be used to conduct a court search for free. A search can be conducted by name or docket number. Individuals can also take advantage of low-cost court records retrieval options. For instance, the Mississippi Electronic Courts (MEC) provides access to court records for $0.20 per page. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Mississippi and Southern District of Mississippi also provides access to court records electronically via the PACER tool for $0.10 per page. However, individuals or agencies like academic researchers, indigents, non-profit organizations, and pro bono attorneys, may be able to access court records via PACER for free.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, court records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
Types of Courts in Mississippi
The Mississippi Judiciary System is majorly divided into Appellate Courts and Trial Courts. Mississippi also has Intervention Courts, which are called special courts. They provide assistance to people who commit crimes due to drug or alcohol addictions.
Mississippi has a two-tier appellate court system which is the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court is the court of last in the state. It handles appeals from lower courts. These appeals can relate to cases like bond issues, death penalties, utility rates, annexations, certified questions from the federal court, election contests, constitutionality challenges, and disciplinary matters involving attorneys and judges. Mississippi has 9 Supreme Court justices. In Mississippi, the Court of Appeals is seen as an error correction court. The Court of Appeals handles cases assigned by the Supreme Court. They handle appeals on issues that are settled by law, but the facts are in dispute. Mississippi has 10 Court of Appeals judges.
Trial Courts comprise Circuit Courts, Chancery Courts, County Courts, Justice Courts, Municipal Courts, and Youth Courts. Circuit Courts handle felony and civil cases. They hear appeals from Municipal, County, and Justice Courts and from administrative agencies like the Mississippi Department of Employment Security and the Workers' Compensation Commission. Mississippi has 57 Circuit Court judges presiding over 22 Circuit Court districts.
Chancery Courts handle cases involving domestic matters (adoptions, custody disputes, and divorces), equity, wills, guardianships, and sanity hearings. They handle juvenile matters in counties that have no County Court. Mississippi has 52 Chancery Court judges presiding over 20 Chancery Court districts.
County Courts handle eminent domain proceedings and juvenile matters. They share jurisdiction with Circuit and Chancery Courts in some civil matters that do not exceed $200,000. County Courts can set bonds, issue search warrants, and conduct preliminary hearings. They handle non-capital felony cases transferred from Circuit Court and have concurrent jurisdiction with Justice Courts in civil and criminal cases. Mississippi has about 30 County Court judges presiding over 22 County Courts.
Justice Courts handle municipality traffic offenses, small claims civil cases not exceeding $3,500, and misdemeanor criminal cases. They can issue warrants and conduct bond hearings and preliminary hearings in felony cases. Mississippi has 197 judges presiding over 82 Justice Courts with 197 judges.
Municipal courts handle misdemeanors, city traffic violations, and municipal ordinances. They can also conduct arraignments and bond and preliminary hearings. Mississippi has 237 Municipal Courts.
Youth Courts handle cases that involve offenses committed by juveniles and abuse and neglect of juveniles. About 22 County court judges also serve as Youth Court judges. However, counties without County Courts can have Chancery Judges hear Youth Court matters.
What Shows Up on Mississippi Judgment Records?
Mississippi judgment records describe a court's decision on the facts of a criminal or civil case filed in its jurisdiction. Judgments are declarations of an individual's legal rights or orders compelling a party to fulfill certain obligations or bear the penalties for a crime. This declaration or order becomes binding when the court clerk enters a physical judgment record in the court docket. This record is available for public perusal per the Mississippi Public Records Act. Thus, any resident of Mississippi, and even out-of-state residents, can obtain the judgment record provided the individual can identify the case and pay the associated costs.
To obtain Mississippi judgment records, visit the clerk's office where the court issued the judgment. Generally, this court is located in the county where the defendant lives or where the crime happened. Pay a visit to the courthouse during regular business hours and submit a request at the clerk's office. The court staff will require details to search and retrieve the case record, such as the case number and litigants' names. The judgment year and judge's name may also expedite the search.
Upon getting the record sought, the court staff shall make regular copies of the judgment record unless the requester specifically requested a certified copy. A typical judgment record contains the litigants' names, a description of the case background, and the issued judgment.
Are Mississippi Bankruptcy Records Public?
Mississippi bankruptcy records are considered public and can be accessed by interested and eligible persons upon request. These include related recordings, such as Mississippi liens, contracts, judgments, and writs. However, requestors will be required to provide information to process their request and cover the cost of research, copying, and notarization if required.
Bankruptcy records provide financial information about a debtor who has filed for bankruptcy. Creditors are discouraged from demanding repayments when a person declares bankruptcy. Debtors most commonly petition for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows debtors to have a repayment plan to settle their debts while keeping their assets, whereas Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires the assets to be liquidated to pay off the creditors. There are times when Chapter 13 is preferable to Chapter 7. Chapter 13 allows debtors to mortgage their assets under Mississippi bankruptcy exemptions.
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in Mississippi
To access bankruptcy records online, inquirers must register an account with the PACER Service Center. PACER allows searches by a specific court or national index. Access to bankruptcy records electronically costs $0.10 per page and $3 per document. Eligible individuals can request fee waivers.
In-person requests can be made at Court Clerk offices. The courts have public access terminals where individuals can view bankruptcy records for free. Printing any records via the terminal attracts a small fee. Also, bankruptcy records can be retrieved over the counter. Just provide the necessary case information and the court staff will search for the records. However, requesters might be required to pay search fees alongside the necessary document fees.
Per Federal Bankruptcy Laws, bankruptcy records are public records. Therefore, anyone can make a request to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Mississippi or Southern District of Mississippi to inspect or get copies of bankruptcy records. Bankruptcy records are available to the public in person, by phone, and online.
Phone requests can be made through the Voice Case Information System (VCIS) by calling (866) 222-8029. VCIS allows requesters to search for case information by case number, debtor's name, or Social Security Number.
Can You Look Up Court Cases in Mississippi?
Yes. Mississippi court case lookup is made possible through the state's case management system. The MEC case management system currently in use by Mississippi courts allows attorneys and members of the public to look up court cases from courts already on the platform. Users pay an annual fee of $10 to have access to this system, while $0.20 is charged per page for inspecting files depending on the number of pages searched.
Mississippi Court Case Lookup Exemptions
Per the Mississippi Public Records Act, court records are available to the public. However, certain records may be exempted from public disclosure by law. Examples of such records are adoption records, juvenile proceedings, grand jury records, child abuse and neglect records, and medical records. These records are only open to case parties, their legal guardian, their attorneys, and anyone with a court order that authorizes access.
How to Find a Court Docket in Mississippi
A Mississippi court docket is an official record that includes all the fillings and proceedings of a case. It provides access to all basic information about a court proceeding. A requester can find a court docket on the Mississippi Judiciary website. Go to the "General Docket" section and type a case party name or docket number in the search box. A list of dockets related to the search will be displayed on the screen. Click on any docket to view the case docket information. Search results will automatically reveal the docket number, case attorneys' and parties' roles and names, trial court information (case number, court name, judge's name, and ruling date), and case docket (date, description and document).
Civil vs Small Claims Courts in Mississippi: Understanding the Difference
Small claims and civil suits are non-criminal disputes involving payment for damages as punishment. In Mississippi, small claims are disputes with values not exceeding $3,500. These cases are brought before the Justice Court. Since the amounts claimed at these courts are small, hiring lawyers might be too expensive. Disputes involving landlord and tenant evictions, debts, injuries arising from minor accidents, and other petty cases can be filed at Mississippi Small Claims Courts.
Civil suits are also non-criminal disputes where the party offended seeks compensation for damages. Cases involving contract disputes, recovery of debts or properties, and damages to properties can be tried as civil suits. The value of the disputed figure determines the court that will hear a civil case. Amounts exceeding $200,000 are brought before the Circuit Courts, while those below $200,000 are tried at the County Courts. Plaintiffs must file their cases at the court in the district or county where the offense was committed or where the defendant resides.