Are New Hampshire Court Records Public?
Citizens can access court records per the New Hampshire Right to Know Law, which was passed in 1976 and amended in 2002. However, the general public's right to access court records is restricted for some records. Examples of some restricted records include files containing denied or pending applications for arrest or search warrants; juvenile cases (neglect/ abuse, CHINS, delinquency, adoption, termination of parental rights); applications for wiretaps and orders, grand jury records; any other records meant to be kept confidential by order, rule, or statute.
What Shows Up on a New Hampshire Court Records Search
New Hampshire court records are documents created and managed by courts. These records contain basic details about a court case, including the names of the involved parties and the attorneys, as well as motions, affidavits, orders, and documents created during the case history.
A New Hampshire court record search provides interested members of the public with information about a legal proceeding and also informs them about the status of a court case. Court records are public records in New Hampshire per New Hampshire RSA 91-A unless sealed by court order or restricted by statute. Generally, court records exempted from public view contain classified or sensitive information.
How Do I Find Court Records in New Hampshire?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in New Hampshire is to identify the courthouse where the record in question is maintained. The court clerk maintains court records in paper case files or electronic formats.
New Hampshire Court Records Public Access
Using the electronic case management system (CM/ECF) of the court, criminal cases filed after January 2005 and civil cases filed after June 2004 are maintained in electronic formats. To review these electronic documents, requestors must have PACER accounts. Anyone can obtain the login details to a PACER account online or offline by calling (800) 676-6856. Electronic case files are also available at the public terminals in the clerk's office and can be accessed free of charge.
Furthermore, civil cases filed before the 1st of June, 2004, and criminal cases filed before the 1st of January, 2005, are kept in paper case files. The court clerk's office maintains paper files on-site for two years following a criminal case's sealing and for one year after a civil case is sealed. The paper files are then moved to the National Archives and Records Administration-Federal Records Center (NARA-FRC) in Waltham, MA, for a 15-year repository period.
Requestors may access records stored at NARA-FRC during the repository period. However, after this period expires, NARA-FRC destroys some paper case files and designates others as permanent records. For information on whether a paper case file still exists or how to review or obtain hard or electronic copies of paper documents that have been sent to NARA-FRC, see NARA-pdf.
Paper case files for miscellaneous and magistrate judge cases are stored ten years after the case is closed. Depending on the type of proceeding, most miscellaneous and magistrate paper cases are destroyed under the Records Disposition Schedule as established by the United States' Judicial Conference. Individuals can contact the court clerk's office to enquire about a miscellaneous or magistrate judge case.
Sealed records are not moved to the National Archives and Records Administration. They are maintained on-site in the clerk's office. Anyone interested in accessing a sealed document must file a formal motion and seek the consent of all parties and counsel of record. Requestors may inspect or copy retrieved paper case files, but these records cannot be removed from the clerk's office without prior authorization from the court clerk.
Visit the Information on Cases for the Public and Media page to access election-related cases, criminal, civil, Supreme Court opinions, Probate/Trust records, and Appeal of Northern Pass. The page also includes records for PFAS Related Cases, State of NH v. Richard S. Sackler, et al. (Purdue Pharma) - Bankruptcy Stay, and SB3 Cases.
For mail-in requests, download and complete either of the following:
- Record Research and Billing Form (NHJB-2798-DFS) - For Superior Court or Circuit Court (District and Family Division)
- Probate Estate Administration Records Research and Payment Form (NHJB-2941-P) - For Circuit Court Probate Division
Mail the completed form together with payment as specified on its second page to:
New Hampshire Judicial Branch Administrative Offices
Attention: Central Processing Center
1 Granite Place, Suite N400
Concord, NH 03301
If the request is urgent, the form can be hand-delivered together with the specified fee during business hours (Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm) at the New Hampshire Judicial Branch Administrative Offices.
Note that hand-delivered requests must be submitted before noon for next-day results. Also, there is no drop off option available on weekends or court holidays. Individuals can complete the form online before printing, and in this case, the fee will be automatically calculated. However, if the form is printed to be completed offline, the individual will have to calculate the fee manually.
If the requestor has the case number of the record, they will not be required to pay a record search fee or file a form. Asides from persons with case numbers, other persons are also exempted from payment; these persons include:
- Law Enforcement (Local and State Police Departments)
- Military recruiters
- Contract Attorneys
- Public Defenders
- Where a party requests information concerning a single case in which such a person is a party
- Where an Attorney requests information about such a case in which such attorney has filed an appearance
How to Conduct a New Hampshire Court Record Search by Name
The New Hampshire judiciary allows remote access to court records via the Case Access Portal. Interested persons may also perform a court record search by name by visiting the clerk's office in person during business hours or using the public computers at the court. The court's directory lists the contact information of courts in New Hampshire. In this case, the party name may be that of the litigant, their attorney, judge or any other participants in the case.
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
Free court records are available on several online databases, including Case Access Portal. However, the availability of information and access to case documents vary. Interested persons may also use low-cost options like the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. Users may obtain court records on this system for $0.10 per page.
To use any of the websites mentioned above, the individual must create an account. Then, they may perform a search using the names of the involved parties, the name of any legal representative handling the case, or the case number. Clicking the search button will show the relevant court records.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, court records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in New Hampshire
Bankruptcy records are handled as public records in New Hampshire since they are created by public agencies. As such, members of the public have the right to request access to such records at a court clerk's office during business hours. Alternatively, searchers may find bankruptcy records via search tools such as the Voice Case Information System (VCIS) and PACER. Each search page on PACER costs $0.10.
A bankruptcy record typically contains information such as the name of the debtor, the debtor's attorney, the date of filing, the creditor's name, the case number, and the value of the debt owed. To access a bankruptcy record, a requestor will be required to provide the name of the debtor or the bankruptcy case number.
What Shows Up on New Hampshire Judgment Records?
Judgment records in New Hampshire are documents that contain information about a court's decision on a lawsuit. Generally, these records contain a brief description of the case background, the court's findings on the matter following an examination of facts or trial, and other relevant details. Per the New Hampshire Right to Know Law, interested members of the public may obtain these records from the record custodian, that is, the clerk of courts.
Persons who wish to obtain New Hampshire judgment records must visit the clerk's office in person during regular business hours and submit a request for court records, specifying the judgment record as the document of interest. The administrative staff will require a case number or the litigants' names to process this request. The requester must pay associated court costs, such as copying and certification fees. Most courts accept cash, certified checks, money orders, and credit card payments for in-person requests.
It is also possible to obtain judgment records remotely by sending a mail-in request, albeit slower. The letter must sufficiently describe the documents sought - with the case number and litigants' names - and include payment for the associated fees. Parties should call the clerk's office before sending a mail-in request.
Are New Hampshire Bankruptcy Records Public?
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Records are considered public. Accessible records often contain information on individuals and companies who have filed for bankruptcy in the state. Cases of bankruptcy may be filed at the federal court under the different chapters of the U.S bankruptcy code, some of which include:
- Chapter 7 - The assets of the debtors are sold by a bankruptcy trustee, and the proceeds are distributed among creditors, with the exclusion of some assets exempted in the bankruptcy code
- Chapter 11 - This is a reorganization bankruptcy case, where the debtor is still in possession of assets but gets to pay the debts under a repayment schedule agreed on by both debtors and creditors. It is most suited to struggling organizations or businesses.
- Chapter 13 - Filing Chapter 13 allows individuals to arrange a repayment plan with the trustee who will then pay the creditors within 5 years. Funds cannot be garnished and debtors will not suffer foreclosure while on this plan, it is preferable to chapter 7 in this regard.
Bankruptcy records, writs, judgments, New Hampshire liens, and related records are deemed public information unless restricted or redacted by judicial order. Interested members of the public may obtain these records by querying the record custodian in the judicial district where the case was filed or through third-party online sources.
Can You Look Up Court Cases in New Hampshire?
Yes, interested parties may perform a New Hampshire court case lookup at the court clerk's office. The right of access of these persons is balanced against laid out non-disclosure interests by the federal and state constitution's confidentiality requirements. Therefore, sensitive cases such as those involving juveniles may not be available to the public.
New Hampshire Court Case Lookup Exemptions
- Presentence reports
- Unexecuted warrants/summons
- Pretrial bails
- Expunged cases
- Juvenile cases
How to Find a Court Docket in New Hampshire
A New Hampshire court docket is a court document that contains basic details about several ongoing and pending cases in a court. While a case file includes a single case in detail, a court docket briefly summarizes several cases. In New Hampshire, court records are public records and can be obtained by members of the public.
Also included in court dockets are exhibits, briefs, judgments, declarations, and pleadings. Court dockets are accessible in online directories and at court clerks' offices across the state. It helps the court, as well as members of the public, to track court proceedings. All court dockets are assigned docket numbers that serve as unique identifiers.
Court dockets can be found either online or at a courthouse. To find a court docket online, a person needs to know the case type, the docket number, or the name of an involved party (for civil cases). Just like normal court case files, accessing a court docket usually requires a fee.
Types of Courts in New Hampshire
There are five types of courts in the New Hampshire judicial system. They are Supreme Courts, Superior Courts, District Division Circuit Courts, Probate Division Courts, and Family Division Courts.
- The New Hampshire Supreme Court has the highest authority in the state. Cases handled by the court include criminal, civil, disputes involving administrative bodies, and juvenile appeals.
- Superior Courts are the second highest court in the state, with jurisdiction over various case types, including civil and criminal. Also, it provides the only forum for trial by jury in New Hampshire.
- Circuit Courts (Districts Division): The district divisions share similar jurisdiction with superior courts. Common cases handled here include violation offenses and juvenile cases.
- Circuit Courts (Probate Division): Probate courts handle land ownership cases, administration of wills, trusts, estate ownership, adoption, equity, parental rights, and more.
- Circuits Courts (Family Division): Cases handled in the family division include petitions of domestic violence, neglect and abuse cases, juvenile delinquencies, parental rights termination, child support, divorce, and parenting action.
Civil vs Small Claims Courts in New Hampshire: Understanding the Difference
In New Hampshire, Small Claims Courts are subdivisions of Municipal Courts or the District Division of the Circuit Courts. The rules guiding small claims are contained under the Rules of the District Court. Disputes below $10,000 and those that do not involve real estate may be resolved at the small claims court.
The procedure for filing a claim is quite simple. Small claims may be filed at either the plaintiff's or defendant's county of residence or the county where the claim arose. Small claims are filed with the Municipal or District Court court clerk and accompanied by an application fee. A statement about the claim called a "complaint" should be filed. The complaint should carry the defendant's name, address, and the amount in dispute. After the claim has been filed, the clerk sends off a notice of the claim to the defendant, who is expected to respond within 30 days of receipt. Note that even after filing a complaint, the plaintiff and defendant in question may still attempt to settle the dispute out of court.
The District Division of Circuit Courts also hears civil cases involving money disputes where the amount involved is not more than $25,000. If the amount is more than $25,000, the case must be filed in the Superior Court.