Note: This page covers information specific to Georgia. 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 Georgia state courts. However, your right of access is not absolute, and a court may limit access to records 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 information page on the Judicial Branch of Georgia website for links to locations and phone numbers of the state courts operating in Georgia. 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.
Georgia law presumes that all court records must be open to the public. As a general matter, you may access docket information, the pleadings and motions of the parties to a lawsuit, decisions and orders of the court, evidence introduced in court by either side, trial transcripts, official recordings of the judge's remarks made in open court, and records of pre- and post-trial hearings. Judges have more discretion to make records of juvenile proceedings confidential, and many juvenile proceedings are closed to the public. However, some juvenile court proceedings are open to the public, such as child support hearings and proceedings involving a juvenile charged with a felony.
In order to deny access to court records, a court must determine that there is a compelling need for secrecy that outweighs the public interest in access. The court cannot simply state that the harm from disclosure outweighs the public interest; it must make specific findings of fact to support its decision to close records. With regard to closure because of a claimed privacy interest, the court must distinguish the privacy interest in that particular case from the general desire to avoid embarrassment that would otherwise lead all parties to a lawsuit to ask for closed records.
A court must issue an order to limit access to court documents. If you are denied access to court records, ask the clerk for the order sealing the documents. If such an order exists, you may consider moving to intervene in the case to challenge the court's decision. If you wish to challenge an order sealing court records, you should get legal assistance to determine how best to proceed. Rule 21.4 of the Uniform Superior Court Rules gives you the ability to appeal a court order denying you access to a court record to the Georgia Supreme Court.