Note: This page covers information specific to Missouri. 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 Missouri state courts. However, your right of access is not absolute, and a court may seal 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 Missouri Courts website for locations, phone numbers, websites, and other information about courts operating in Missouri. Alternatively, you may be able to access court records online at Case.net, the state's automated case management system. 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.
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. However, some records are generally not open to the public, such as juvenile court records, trade secret information, and mental health evaluations. See, e.g., Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 211.321, 630.14. Also, though the vast majority of public court records are made available on Case.net, not all records that are available in person are made available online. For example, in criminal cases, a prosecuting attorney may request the case record be temporarily removed from Internet access if a warrant has been requested and there is a high risk of injury to officers or others should the defendant become aware of the issuance of the warrant. See Court Operating Rule 2.04.
In addition, a court has the discretion to seal a record when there is a compelling justification. "Given the presumption in favor of open records, an abuse of discretion is present when trial court orders inexplicably seal court records, do not articulate specific reasons for closure, or do not otherwise demonstrate a recognition of the presumptive right of access." Transit Casualty Co. ex rel. Pulitzer Publishing Co. v. Transit Casualty Co. ex rel. Intervening Employees, 43 S.W.3d 293, 300 (Mo. 2001). A court must issue an order to seal documents. In this order, the court must "identify specific and tangible threats to important values." Transit Casualty at 302. 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.