Delaware Court Records Search
Court records are the documents filed or created by a court during a specific legal case, including the initial complaint or indictment and other legal filings, court orders, transcripts, and jury verdicts. In Delaware, court records are public records. As long as a document is not sealed by a court order or exempted from public disclosure by a statute, members of the public can access and make copies of these state records.
Interested individuals can find search court cases online in two ways. They can use the Delaware CourtConnect, a database for civil cases, or the Delaware Courts website for opinions and orders of appellate courts. These websites are updated regularly, and their resources are publically available.
Court records are necessary for legal research purposes, appeals, transparency, and accountability of the judicial system. They also serve as a historical record of Delaware's court system. Court records give researchers access to information on the parties in a case, court dates, dockets, transcripts of court proceedings, judgments, and other documents attached to the case.
Are Delaware Court Records Public?
Court records in Delaware are accessible to members of the public. The Delaware Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) regards every information or document collected or compiled by government bodies in the discharge of official duties, courts inclusive, as public record. Provided a document is not sealed by a court order or exempted by state statute, members of the public can inspect or make copies of such a record. Some of the documents that the public may not be able to access are personnel records, medical records, trade secrets, and records of impending litigations not filed with any court.
The FOIA was enacted in Delaware in 1977. The need to ensure that public officials execute government duties transparently necessitated its introduction. The FOIA has undergone several amendments since its inception. A notable revision occurred in 1999 that extended the FOIA to cover some Delaware Legislature records previously excluded. Currently, emails received or sent by members of the Delaware General Assembly or their staff are still exempted from the FOIA.
How Do I Find Court Records in Delaware
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Delaware is to know the case type and the court in which it was heard. Delaware courts and the types of cases under their jurisdictions are:
Justice of the Peace Courts: Justice of the Peace Courts have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases. A civil case, such as the recovery of properties, where the amount in dispute does not exceed $25,000 is heard in a Justice of the Peace court. They also hear criminal misdemeanor suits and traffic cases that do not involve physical injury or death. Application for court records in the Justice of the Peace Courts should be submitted to the clerks of courts at various court locations.
Court of Common Pleas: The Court of Common Pleas in Delaware hears appeals of criminal cases decided by the Justice of the Peace Courts. It handles preliminary hearings of felony cases and trials of misdemeanors, including misdemeanor drug offenses. The Court of Common Pleas also has jurisdiction over civil cases involving amounts not exceeding $75,000. Court record requests sufficiently describing the particular records of interest may be made to the Administrator of the Court of Common Pleas at their locations.
Family Courts: The Delaware Family Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over matters involving juveniles. The court, however, does not hear cases in which minors have been accused of first and second-degree murders, rape, or kidnapping. Fees charged for inspecting and making copies of Family Courts records vary. Requestors may apply to view or copy Family Court records at their courthouse locations.
Superior Court: Delaware Superior Courts have jurisdiction over civil and criminal suits, excluding those that have been assigned to other courts. The Superior Court does not try equity cases because they are under the purview of the Court of Chancery. Felonies and drug offenses committed by adults are tried at the Superior Courts. Civil cases are also heard at the Superior Court, with no limit attached to the value of the damages being sought. The Superior Court serves as an intermediate Appellate Court in the state. It reviews decisions of the Family Courts and the Court of Common Pleas. Furthermore, about 50 Delaware government agencies settle legal disputes at the Superior Courts. Inspection and duplication of Superior Courts' records cost varying amounts depending on the urgency of a request, the number of pages, and the delivery mode. Superior Court record requests may be directed to the Court Administrator of the Superior Courts at their court locations.
Court of Chancery: The Delaware Court of Chancery has exclusive jurisdiction over equity matters. Cases involving contractual disagreements, purchase of lands, titles to real estates, wills, and guardianship are heard by this court. Copying court records at the Chancery Courts comes at a fee and such requests may be submitted at the Delaware Chancery Court locations.
Supreme Court: The highest court in the State of Delaware is the Supreme Court. The court reviews appeals on cases decided by the lower trial courts. The Supreme Court charges $0.25 to make copies of records in its custody. Requestors may also be billed additional fees for the time spent by administrative staff to locate requested records. If the total estimated fee exceeds $100, the Administrator should notify requestors and seek their consent before making copies of requested documents. Court administrators can charge half of the estimated fees as deposits before fulfilling record requests. Administrators may also waive charges if an application is for public benefit. Requests for court records in the custody of the Supreme Court may be submitted at:
Court Administrator of the Supreme Court
The Renaissance Centre
405 North King Street, Suite 509
Wilmington, DE 19801
Delaware public records custodians typically respond to public record requests within ten days of the receipt of such applications. Requestors must be notified within this period if, for any reason, their requests will be denied. They must equally state the reasons for rejections to help requestors who may consider appealing such denials. However, some record requests may require more than the usual ten days for retrieval. In such cases, requestors will also be notified of the impending delay, and requested records are made available as soon as they are ready. Appeals of record requests must be made to the Supreme Court within ten days after the denial.
Delaware Court Records Public Access
Members of the public have remote access to records of civil cases tried at the Superior Court, Court of Common Pleas, and the Justice of the Peace Courts. The Delaware Judiciary manages CourtConnect, an online case management system that makes court records publicly available. Interested persons can use parameters such as names of persons or businesses who are parties to a case, judgment status, and case information to query CourtConnect for their court records of interest.
The Delaware Judiciary also maintains a database of some criminal and civil cases, as well as opinions of the Appellate Court. Members of the public can access these a case file by selecting the court that tried the case and time to find specific court records. Currently, about 1,413 opinions and orders are on this database. It is regularly updated.
How to Conduct a Delaware Court Record Search by Name
An integral step in finding court records in Delaware is knowing the name of the parties, the case type, and the court location. Searchers should submit the request for court records to the relevant courts at their various court locations. Upon receipt of the application, court clerks and administrators respond within ten days. The court administrator will communicate any delay or rejection of a request to the requesters with reasons.
Interested individuals can equally access court records of civil cases of the Superior Court, Court of Common Pleas, and the Justice of the Peace Courts online. The Delaware Court has an online case management system, CourtConnect. It is publically available and cost-free. Researchers can search by party name, or case type, search for judgments against specific persons or look up case information and activities. To conduct a successful search by name, a researcher should have the following details:
- The Last Name or Company Name
- First Name
- Middle Name
- Beginning Case Filing Date
- Ending Case Filing Date and,
- Case Type
The Delaware Judiciary also maintains an index of criminal and civil cases, including judicial orders and opinions of the appellate court. To find a court record here, the searcher needs to know the name of the court, the decision date, and the type of case (whether civil or criminal).
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
The Delaware CourtConnect is free. To find court records, the searcher needs a stable internet connection and information on the case, i.e., the name of the person or business, the relevant county, and the case number.
There are other low-cost options for accessing court records online, such as requesting records in person at the court clerk's office. The fee for certifying or copying documents depends on the document and the type of court. Researchers can also look up court records with third-party sites.
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.
Types of Courts in Delaware
The Delaware judicial system comprises the Delaware Supreme Court, the Court of Chancery, the Superior Court, the Family Court, the Court of Common Pleas, the Justice of the Peace Court, and other judicial and administrative agencies.
- The Delaware Supreme Court is the highest in the state. It is a direct appellate court. It receives appeals from the Court of Chancery, the Superior Court, and the Family Court. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction for final requests on criminal cases where the sentence exceeds a certain minimum, civil lawsuits, and other orders of lower courts.
- The Delaware Court of Chancery has jurisdiction to hear all matters that fall under the umbrella of the law of equity and other civil law. For example - corporate issues, trusts, estates, other fiduciary concerns, disputes involving the purchase of land, and questions of title to real estate as well as commercial and contractual matters.
- The Delaware Superior Court is a court of general jurisdiction. It has original jurisdiction over all criminal and civil cases except equity cases. Only the court has jurisdiction over felonies and nearly all drug offenses.
- The Delaware Family Court mainly has jurisdiction over family and juvenile matters such as domestic relations, cases involving minors, and traffic infractions.
- The Delaware Court of Common Pleas and the Justice of the Peace Court have original jurisdiction over civil cases. They both hear matters relating to torts, contract disputes, and real property rights. The Court of Common holds preliminary trials for misdemeanors.
- Other courts and judicial agencies in Delaware include Federal Court, Child Death Review Commission, and Delaware Nursing Home Residents Quality Assurance Commission.
What are Delaware Judgment Records?
Delaware judgment records are created towards the end of a case when a judge issues a decision and the court clerk enters the decision into the court docket. So, judgment records mostly exist for cases considered closed or adjudicated unless a litigant pursues an appeal.
Copies of Delaware judgment records are available for public perusal per the Delaware Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). Interested persons who wish to obtain judgment records in Delaware must visit the clerk's office during work hours. The administrative staff will require specific information to process the request, including the case number and the names of the parties involved in the case.
Furthermore, the requester must pay the applicable search fees and administrative cost of copying or certifying the judgment record. Most clerk offices accept cash, money order, certified check, and credit cards. Yet another way to obtain judgment records in Delaware is to prepare and send a mail-in request. Requesters who prefer to obtain judgment records from the repose of their homes may obtain judgment records online via Delaware CourtConnect. A typical judgment record in Delaware contains the litigants' names, the judge's name, a case description, and the court's decision.
What are Delaware Bankruptcy Records?
Delaware bankruptcy records consist of officially generated and stored documents of bankruptcy proceedings in the state. These records are considered open to the public except where exempted by law. For instance, interested parties can access the proof of claim form or search for information on filing a claim from the Court's website. Furthermore, a creditor can search a national database called the U.S. Party/Case Index with a registered PACER account to determine if an entity has filed for bankruptcy. The search result will supply the party's name, case number, case's jurisdiction, and a link to the case docket. In Delaware's Bankruptcy Court, appointed trustees in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case usually distribute funds six to eight weeks after the Notice of the Final Report and Account. Similarly, in Chapters 11 and 13 cases, the debtor in possession or appointed trustee will distribute funds following the court-approved plan. However, there are instances where the distribution may take longer. Delaware bankruptcy records can be accessed at the following address:
824 Market ST N
Wilmington, DE 19801
Phone: (302) 252-2900
Along with bankruptcy records, Delaware Liens, contracts, writs and related recordings can be made available to interested and eligible persons on request. To obtain these documents, requestors must query relevant custodians and provide the information required to facilitate the record search.
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in Delaware
Unless bankruptcy records are confidential, they are deemed public records in Delaware. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, has original jurisdiction over all bankruptcy cases and hearings. The district also maintains bankruptcy records for the state.
Researchers can obtain copies of bankruptcy records in either photocopies or certified copies at the Bankruptcy Court Clerk's office in Delaware. Individuals must submit a written request specifying the desired documents and the number of necessary copies. Certified copies cost $11.00 per document, while photocopies are $0.50 per page. Also, making copies at the Electronic Public Access Terminal costs $10.00 per copy.
US Bankruptcy Court Clerk
824 North Market Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
Phone: (302) 252-2900
Interested persons can also find bankruptcy records online via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system (PACER). The service is free, but it costs $0.10 to download a page.
Can You Look Up Court Cases in Delaware?
Interested members of the public have two options for looking up court cases in Delaware. They may use CourtConnect, a database of civil cases heard at the Superior Courts, Court of Common Pleas, and the Justice of the Peace Courts. Parameters such as names of persons or businesses who are parties to the cases can be used to look up court cases.
Another option is to search the Delaware court's website for cases of interest. The website presently has orders and opinions from different courts, and it is regularly updated. Requestors may use particular court and date decisions were entered to look up court cases.
Delaware Court Case Lookup Exemptions
Although court records are public records in Delaware, the law exempts some case records from public disclosure. As a result, such records are not available online. Delaware, like most jurisdictions, exempts certain records from public disclosure to balance the public's right to know with other significant interests such as personal privacy, confidentiality, and public safety. Under the laws in force in Delaware, the following court records are exempt from public disclosure:
- Medical records
- Trade secrets
- Law enforcement records - Investigatory records, intelligence files, and criminal records
- Intelligence files
- Personnel records
- Government records (for example attorney-client communications and documents related to ongoing legal proceedings).
In Delaware, access to sealed records is regulated by the Delaware Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Individuals requesting permits to access confidential documents should be ready to prove their identity and legitimate interest in the records. The following category of people may be authorized to access restricted records:
- The parties involved in the case
- Government officials
- The media in cases which are public interest
- Researchers who can prove a legitimate interest in a case
- Individuals with a valid court order for access to restricted records.
What is a Court Docket in Delaware?
A court docket is a record that includes a detailed account of all the events and actions related to each case in a summarized, chronological format, outlining the court proceedings. Court dockets in Delaware typically contain the names of the parties, case numbers, filing dates, hearing dates, orders, judgments, deadlines, and a summary of all documents filed in the case.
A docket is needed to locate other documents attached to court records (pleadings, motions, briefs, etc.). Court dockets in Delaware are mainly used to track the progress of cases, keep to deadlines and schedules, and provide a log of all case-related events and documents.
In Delaware, researchers can find dockets on the CourtConnect website. All they need to do is conduct a standard court search, then click on the case number to view the docket and other related documents.
What are Civil Court and Small Claims in Delaware?
Small claims, like other civil suits, are disputes where the plaintiffs seek money for damages. However, the value of the damages sought in small claims cases is usually low and varies from one state to another. Delaware small claims courts, the civil divisions of the Justice of the Peace Courts, handle civil cases involving amounts less than $25,000.
For example, disputes between landlords and tenants, recovery of damaged properties with values not exceeding $25,000, and breach of contracts may be heard at the Justice of the Peace Courts. There are time limits within which suits must be filed to avoid being dismissed for the expiration of the right to sue. Disputes involving breach of contracts must be filed with the court within three years after the commission of the offense. Likewise, damages to properties or personal injuries have a limit of two years within which cases must be filed with the court. To file small claims cases with the Justice of the Peace Court, plaintiffs are required to pay the following as filing fees:
- Claims that do not exceed $1,000 pays $35
- Claims between $1,000 to $5,000 pay $40
- Claims above $5,000 pays $45
- Landlord-tenant dispute pays $40
Although cases with claims below $25,000 are tried at the Justice of the Peace Courts, civil suits to claim damages higher than that may be filed at higher Delaware courts. For example, civil cases to recover properties worth more than $25,000 can be filed at the Superior Court. Similarly, suits to claim damages for personal injuries where the amount being sought is up to $75,000 may be filed at the Court of Common Pleas. Those above $75,000 are under the purview of the Superior Court.