Note: This page covers information specific to Florida. For general information concerning access to and use of court records see the Access to Courts and Court Records section of this guide.
You have a right to inspect and copy most records and documents filed in Florida state courts. However, your right of access is not absolute, and a court may order that records be made confidential under certain circumstances. If you are interested in obtaining court records, you should go to the courthouse where the case is taking place and request the records in writing from the clerk of the court (there will usually be a request form). See the Florida State Courts page for links to the websites of the Florida County Courts, Circuit Courts, District Courts of Appeal, and Supreme Court. Alternatively, you may be able to access court records online. For more information, please consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's state-by-state guide to access to court records and proceedings.
Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420 covers the details of public access to Florida court records. Under the law, the public has a presumptive right of access to all court records in the custody of the court clerk, including case dockets, transcripts, motions filed by the parties to a lawsuit, exhibits filed with the court as evidence, and records of depositions filed with the court. Florida courts have also found a presumptive public right of access to many pretrial and post-trial records, including juror interviews, jury misconduct hearings, records of sentencing proceedings, and civil settlement agreements.
Court records that would otherwise be public may be closed (i.e., made confidential) if:
- closure is necessary to prevent a serious, imminent threat to the administration of justice;
- there is no reasonable alternative to closure; and
- closure is effected in the narrowest possible way.
Courts must give the public "reasonable notice" of an order to close judicial records and an opportunity to be heard on the issue, although the court may give notice and opportunity to be heard after it has closed the record. If you wish to challenge an order closing court records, you should get legal assistance to determine how best to proceed. The Judicial Access chapter of the Florida Bar's Reporter's Handbook includes a great section (III.B) on what to do when you are denied access to court records.