Note: This page covers information specific to Texas. 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 Texas 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 Texas 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. 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 certain types of court records that you will not be able to inspect. For example, you will not have access to juvenile records where the individual has not committed a felony or a Class A or B misdemeanor between the ages of 17 and 21.
Beyond that, the court may seal court records where the significant privacy interest in sealing the records outweigh the presumptive right of public access. The court must also find that there is no less restrictive means to protect the significant privacy interest.
You may appeal a court's denial of access to records by filing a petition for review with the Administrative Director of the Office of Court Administration. That petition has to be filed within 30 days of the denial, and must include:
- a copy of the original request and denial notice;
- any supporting facts and arguments in favor of your right to access; and
- if you like, a request to expedite the review and the reasons for it.
The petition will then be referred to a special committee consisting of no fewer than five judges. The committee will consider the case for and against granting the request and issue a written decision within 60 days. See Texas Rule of Judicial Adjudication 12.9. If you're frustrated by the the committee's decision, you may file a writ of mandamus with the court. Refer to our section on Finding Legal Help for more information on how to proceed with a court action.