Note: This page covers information specific to New Jersey. 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 New Jersey courts. However, your right of access is not absolute. New Jersey statutes and court rules exempt certain categories of information from disclosure, and a court may limit access to court records in certain situations. 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 Municipal Courts, Local and County Courts, Tax Court, Appellate Division of the Superior Court, 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.
New Jersey Court Rule 1.38 covers the details of public access to New Jersey court records. Under the rule, the public has a presumptive right of access to all court records made, maintained or kept on file by any court, with some limited exceptions. These exceptions include jury questionnaires, civil commitment records, records relating to child sexual abuse victims, search warrants, records about grand jury proceedings, and most records of the family division. More information about non-public records is available in a set of guidelines recently prepared for court employees.
A court may seal records at its discretion if it finds that good cause exists to do so. To determine if good cause exists, the court must determine whether the need for secrecy substantially outweighs the presumption of access, and the need for secrecy must be demonstrated for each document. Hammock by Hammock v. Hoffmann-Laroche, 662 A.2d 546, 559 (N.J. 1995).
If you seek to access sealed records, the party attempting to keep them closed must demonstrate that closure is still currently necessary. Id. If you wish to challenge an order closing court records, you should get legal assistance to determine how best to proceed.