Note: This page covers information specific to Ohio. 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 Ohio 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). Refer to the Ohio judiciary's website to find the locations, phone numbers, and websites for the state's courts.
Alternatively, you may be able to access court records online. The Ohio Supreme Court has a large number of court documents on-line, including documents filed by the parties. However, not all documents are on-line for each case, although the on-line search engine will show that they were filed. Ohio Appellate Courts have on-line access to opinions. Local courts have decided whether to put records on-line on a county-by-county basis and can be accessed through individual county websites. 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, among other items found in a case file. However, there are a number of broad categories of records that are not available to the public including adoption records, records relating to juveniles seeking permission for an abortion, and probation and parole records, as well as other sensitive information such as HIV test results and the identity of victims of child sexual abuse.
Beyond that, a party to a court case has the right to request that public access to information in the court record be restricted. The court may restrict the information at its discretion after considering: (1) risk of injury to individuals; (2) individual privacy rights and interests; (3) proprietary business information; and (4) public safety. If you wish to challenge an order closing court records, you should get legal assistance to determine how best to proceed.
For more information about access to Ohio Court Records, download section 15 of Ohio State Bar Association's The Legal Handbook for Ohio Journalists on Media Access to Courts, Meetings and Public Records.