Note: This page covers information specific to Indiana. 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 many records and documents filed in Indiana courts. However, your right of access is not absolute. Indiana law exempts certain categories of information from disclosure, and a court may limit access to court records on its own initiative and at the request of a party to a lawsuit or criminal case. 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). State websites provide locations and phone numbers for the Indiana Circuit and Superior Courts, Courts of Appeals, Supreme Court, Tax Court, and Limited Jurisdiction Courts. 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.
Under Indiana Administrative Rule 9, there is a strong presumption in favor of public access to all court records. 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, and transcripts of hearings, among other items found in a case file. However, Administrative Rule 9(G) lists many categories of information that are not open to the public. For example, you will not be able to view most adoption records, records of juvenile proceedings, many medical, mental health, and tax records, records revealing the personal information of various persons, and the judges' personal notes and email. See Indiana Administrative Rule 9(G) and pages 11-13 of the Indian Supreme Court's Public Access to Court Records Handbook for details.
A judge may order that a court record containing any information listed in Rule 9(G) be closed to the public. In addition, any person who would be affected by the release of information contained in a court record may petition the court to prohibit access to it. In order to prohibit access to a court record, the person seeking closure must prove to the court by clear and convincing evidence that
- the public interest will be substantially served by prohibiting access;
- access or dissemination of the information will create a significant risk of substantial harm to the person making the request, other persons, or the general public;
- substantial prejudicial effect to on-going proceedings cannot be avoided without prohibiting public access; or
- the information should have been excluded from public access under Rule 9(G).
In deciding whether or not to prohibit access to a court record, the court is supposed to balance the interest in public access against the grounds the person presents. See Rule 9(H). If the court prohibits access, it must state its reason for doing so and use the least restrictive method for blocking access to the information in question. For further details see pages 14 and 15 of the Public Access to Court Records Handbook.
If you are denied access to a court record, you may file a petition with the court having jurisdiction over the record. To obtain access to a court record sealed under Rule 9(G) or at the request of the person affected by disclosure, you must demonstrate that
- extraordinary circumstances exist that requires deviation from the ordinary rules;
- the public interest will be served by allowing access;
- access or dissemination of the information creates no significant risk of substantial harm to any party, to third parties, or to the general public; and
- the release of information creates no prejudicial effect to on-going proceedings or the information should not be excluded for public access under Rule 9(G).
Given the complexity of Indiana law on this topic, you should seek legal assistance if you plan on challenging a denial of access to court records.
For additional information, see page 16 of the Public Access to Court Records Handbook.