Note: This page covers information specific to Michigan. 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 Michigan courts. However, your right of access is not absolute. Michigan statutes and court rules exempt certain categories of information from disclosure, and a court may limit access to court records 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 Michigan Trial Courts (Circuit, Probate, and District Courts), Court of Appeals, 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.
Under Michigan Court Rule 8.119(E), there is a strong presumption in favor of public access to court records. You should be able to access any file or document, and the information contained within, unless your access is restricted by statute or a court rule, or has been sealed by the court. However, you will not be able to access, among other things, many files related to mediation, jury questionnaires, grand jury information, drug court participation records, crime victim addresses and telephone numbers, infectious disease testing results, and search warrants at least until 65 days after issuance, adoption records, waivers of parental consent for abortions, and wills filed for safekeeping. The Michigan Court System's website contains a chart which lists categories of non-public and limited access records. You should be aware that if you ask about a record to which access is restricted, court personnel will respond with the statement that "No public record exists."
A judge may order that a court record be closed to the public if:
- A party has filed a written motion that identifies the specific interest to be protected,
- The court has made a finding of good cause, in writing or on the record, which specifies the grounds for the order, and
- There is no less restrictive means to adequately and effectively protect the specific interest asserted.
The judge must consider both the interests of the parties and the interest of the public in deciding whether to seal a record, and must provide all interested persons the opportunity to be heard. See Michigan Court Rule 8.119(F). The judge may not seal court orders or opinions.
If you are denied access to a sealed court record, you may file a motion objecting to the judge's decision. Michigan Court Rule 8.119(F))(6). For access to non-public and restricted records, the Michigan Court System's website's chart includes information on how you may obtain access to each category of records. If you wish to challenge an order closing court records, you should get legal assistance to determine how best to proceed.