Wisconsin Court Records
Wisconsin Court Records are official documents that detail the proceedings and outcomes of cases heard in Wisconsin courts.
These records are created and maintained by the Wisconsin Court System, which includes the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Circuit Courts, and Municipal Courts. These courts handle various cases, including criminal, civil, family, and juvenile cases.
The records of these cases are generally accessible to the public under the Wisconsin Public Records Law, although some restrictions apply to certain types of cases, such as those involving juveniles.
One of the most common reasons why people seek court records is to conduct background checks. Employers, landlords, and other organizations may require background checks to ensure that an individual has no criminal description or a civil litigation history.
In addition to serving practical purposes, these records also have historical value. They provide a window into the legal and social issues of the past and can help someone understand the development of the state court system over time.
Furthermore, researchers and scholars may use court records to study trends in the types of cases heard, the outcomes of those cases, and the social and cultural factors that shaped the court's decisions.
Despite their importance, these court records can be challenging to access and understand for those unfamiliar with the legal system. Some court records may contain legal jargon or technical language that is hard to decipher, while others may be redacted or sealed to protect the parties' privacy.
However, with the help of legal professionals or online resources, anyone can access and understand court records in Wisconsin.
Which Wisconsin Courts Maintain Publicly Accessible Records?
Knowing the several Wisconsin court levels and their respective authorities is essential in accessing and obtaining Wisconsin Court Records.
The Wisconsin Court System comprises four levels: the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Circuit Courts, and Municipal Courts. The Supreme Court is the highest in the state, followed by the intermediate Court of Appeals. The Circuit and Municipal Courts are the trial courts where most cases are heard.
In accessing and obtaining court records in Wisconsin, one must know which specific trial court has jurisdiction over the case to ensure efficient retrieval of the necessary documents.
Here are the trial courts in Wisconsin:
Wisconsin Circuit Courts
Wisconsin Circuit Courts are trial courts with general jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases in the state. In Wisconsin, 249 Circuit Court Judges rule over 69 Circuit Courts.
Circuit Courts have initial jurisdiction in all criminal and civil matters but often handle situations outside Municipal Court authority. In these courts, all jury cases are heard.
Criminal matters are exclusively under the exclusive jurisdiction of these courts. However, Circuit Courts typically do not address ordinance breaches within the jurisdiction of a Municipal Court.
The civil cases handled by Circuit Courts include general civil claims, domestic relations, civil equity issues, probate matters, and most juvenile cases.
Wisconsin Municipal Courts
Wisconsin Municipal Courts have jurisdiction over certain local ordinance violations and traffic offenses. These courts are considered part of the state's judicial system but are separate from the state's Circuit Courts.
Municipal Courts in Wisconsin often hear animal control infractions, trespassing, health code breaches, disorderly behavior, building code violations, and underage alcohol use.
Certain adolescent crimes, including truancy, alcohol infractions, drug charges, and curfew violations, are also handled by Municipal Courts.
These courts do not conduct jury trials, and cases requesting jury trials are moved to Circuit Courts. Furthermore, Municipal Courts do not have jurisdiction over matters for equitable remedies.
Lastly, in places lacking Municipal Courts, Circuit Courts handle breaches of municipal ordinances.
What are the Common Public Court Records in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin provides valuable insights into legal proceedings by granting the general public access to various court records. Here are some of the most commonly available Wisconsin Court Records and a brief overview of their contents:
Wisconsin Civil and Small Claims Records
Wisconsin Civil Records and Small Claims Records are two distinct types of legal documents related to Circuit Court cases in Wisconsin.
Civil Court Records typically involve disputes seeking compensation or resolution for various issues that usually affect a significant amount of money or property. These include contract disputes, personal injury claims, or family law matters such as divorce or child custody.
On the other hand, Small Claims Court Records involve disputes over smaller amounts of money. The Small Claims Court divisions handle Wisconsin small claims cases. These courts may frequently decide issues without a lawyer since they are more straightforward and less formal than Civil Courts.
In Wisconsin, there are three common types of small claims cases. The first is a claim for money, which involves civil actions where the amount claimed is $10,000 or less. This type of case is typically filed for money judgments, wage garnishment, or personal injury actions under $5,000.
The second common type of small claims case is an eviction action. It involves actions for eviction regardless of the amount of rent claimed.
The third one is a replevin action. It involves non-consumer credit actions for replevin (return of personal property) if the property claimed does not exceed $10,000. It also includes consumer credit transactions for returning personal items leased or financed by a dealer for $25,000 or less.
The return of earnest money for real estate purchases, an action on an arbitration award for real estate purchases, and a foreclosure eviction action are uncommon small claims cases in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Civil and Small Claims Records are managed by the county's Circuit Court that filed and recorded the case. The Circuit Court Clerk's Office is responsible for maintaining and providing access to these court records.
What Information Do Wisconsin Civil and Small Claims Records Contain?
Regardless of the kind of dispute, the amount of money at stake, the complexity of legal concerns, and the formality of court processes, Wisconsin Civil and Small Claims Records typically contain the following information or materials:
- Case information, such as the name of the parties involved, the case number, the filing court, and the case filing date
- Pleadings, including complaints, answers, motions, and other legal documents filed by the parties in the case
- Orders and judgments or decisions issued by a judge or a court in a case that may include charges for payment, injunctions, and other remedies
- Docket entries, which are chronological records of all activities and events that occur in a case, such as filings, hearings, and other court proceedings
- Evidence presented in the case, such as contracts, medical records, photographs, and other relevant items
- Written or recorded transcripts of court hearings or trials that provide a detailed account of what was said and done during the proceedings
- Settlement agreements reached between the parties involved in a case
- Appeals and appellate briefs if there's an appeal to a higher court
- Any other relevant information related to the case, such as witnesses' statements or expert opinions
Wisconsin Criminal Records
One of the most prevalent Wisconsin Court Records is criminal records. Wisconsin Criminal Records refer to any information created or maintained by law enforcement agencies, courts, or correctional facilities in the state regarding a person's criminal history.
One unique aspect of criminal records in Wisconsin is their impact on employment opportunities. Wisconsin has strict laws regarding employment discrimination based on criminal history, but having a criminal record can still make it challenging to find a job.
Many employers conduct background checks, and a criminal record can raise concerns about the individual's trustworthiness, reliability, and ability to perform job duties.
The information employers can find on Wisconsin Criminal Records during background checks may vary depending on the offense's nature and the case's disposition. However, criminal records in Wisconsin often contain the following:
- Personal information, such as the name, birth date, physical description, and other subject's identifying information
- Details about the arrest, including the date, time, location, and reason for the arrest
- Information about the booking process, including fingerprinting and photographing, as well as any bail or bond amounts
- Charges against the individual, including the offense, date, and degree
- Court dates, locations, and plea or sentence agreements
- Information about the outcome of the case, including the conviction or acquittal, and any sentences or fines imposed
- The person's probation or parole terms and conditions
There are various ways to obtain Wisconsin Criminal Records, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) provides an accessible and convenient option for interested parties. The DOJ's Crime Information Bureau (CIB) maintains state criminal records, readily available to the public through the Wisconsin Online Record Check System (WORCS).
Interested individuals must create a user account to access a Wisconsin Criminal Record through WORCS. Once approved, the requester can perform a name-based criminal record search for a fee.
Wisconsin Traffic Records
Wisconsin Traffic Records are authoritative documents that include an individual's driving history and other relevant information regarding their use of the state roads. The Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and state courts are mainly responsible for enforcing state traffic rules and creating and maintaining traffic records.
One of the primary uses of Wisconsin Traffic Records is to promote public safety by enforcing traffic laws and monitoring traffic violations. Law enforcement agencies can use these records to identify high-risk areas where traffic accidents are more likely. They can also target repeat offenders to help reduce the number of traffic-related incidents on Wisconsin roads.
Insurance companies may also use traffic records to assess risk and determine insurance rates for drivers based on their driving history. Moreover, employers may access these records to evaluate the driving records of potential employees driving company vehicles.
The exact information in these records may vary depending on the specific record and its source. Still, some of the common types of data that may be in Wisconsin Traffic Records include:
- Driver's name, date of birth, and contact information
- Driver's license number and issuing state
- Vehicle make, model, year, and registration information
- Traffic violation details, such as date, time, location, and type of violation
- Citations and tickets issued by law enforcement officers
- Court records related to traffic violations and accidents
- Conviction and sentencing information, including fines, jail time, and probation
- Accident reports, including the cause of the accident, injuries sustained, and property damage
- Insurance information, including the driver's insurance provider and policy number
- Driving record history, including past traffic violations and accidents
How to Access Traffic Records in Wisconsin?
Generally, the WisDOT separates Wisconsin Traffic Records into two: the vehicle records and the driving records.
Vehicle records include information regarding the subject's car, such as emission testing and title registration, and are available through online requests via the WisDOT's vehicle search service,
On the other hand, driving records comprise a person's five-year driving history, including speeding fines and accidents. In addition, they include the subject's current driver's license information. Similar to vehicle records, these are available upon online request through WisDOT's driver search service.
These tools allow interested parties to search Wisconsin Traffic Records online. To access records on these systems, the requesting party must provide their complete name, birth date, driver's license number, and social security number. Though these tools provide information on traffic records, they may not be the best resource for a complete Wisconsin Traffic Record.
To get comprehensive traffic records in Wisconsin, interested parties must complete and submit a request form along with the applicable fee. Requesting parties may submit the application and payment to WisDOT using money orders or checks payable to Registration Fee Trust.
Wisconsin Probate Records
Probate records are legal documents that detail the distribution of a deceased person's assets and properties.
Wisconsin Probate Records are an essential source of information for historians and genealogists. These records can provide insight into ancestors' lives, including their property holdings, family relationships, and social status.
Some of the most common types of probate records include wills, probate court orders, estate inventories, and final settlement documents.
Wills are perhaps the most well-known probate record type. These documents detail the deceased person's wishes for the distribution of their assets and properties. On the other hand, the court issues probate court orders that outline the distribution of assets according to Wisconsin's probate laws.
Estate inventories provide a detailed list of the deceased person's assets, including personal property, real estate holdings, and financial accounts. Meanwhile, the final settlement documents show how they distributed the assets and who received them.
Wisconsin probate records are accessible at various repositories throughout the state. The Wisconsin State Historical Society is one of the central repositories, holding probate records dating back to the 1800s. Other sources of Wisconsin Probate Records include county courthouses, local historical societies, and genealogical societies.
Probate courts in the state are a part of the Wisconsin Circuit Courts system. Depending on the county, the probate division may have its courtroom and judge, or it may be handled by a single judge who presides over other cases.
Wisconsin Family Records
Wisconsin Family Records, kept by the Wisconsin Circuit Court System, are critical resources for anyone involved in a family court case in the state.
These court records can contain various information depending on the case and the record custodian. Typically, family court records contain critical personal details and contact information of the parties involved in the case and detailed trial transcripts that capture court actions and motion arguments.
In addition, these records may include financial entitlements like child support, alimony, and estate division, as well as information on child custody or visitation, restraining orders, legal separations, and other relevant concerns.
Aside from that, these court records usually include any penalties or sentences issued due to the court's decision, such as jail terms and community service requirements for contempt of court.
One of the primary reasons that family court records are essential is that they provide a historical record of the court proceedings. It can be beneficial in cases where the parties involved in the case have a long history of conflict.
By reviewing the court records, attorneys and judges can better understand the issues raised in the past and how they have been resolved. It can help them to make more informed decisions in the future.
The office of the Clerk of Courts at the courthouse where the case occurred makes family court documents in Wisconsin generally accessible to interested and qualified parties upon request. The seeking party may need to fulfill record custodian-specific eligibility criteria to obtain a family court record.
While Wisconsin Family Records are generally available to the public, access limitations exist. Certain information, such as the names of minors, may be redacted to protect their privacy. Additionally, some records may be sealed if they contain sensitive information, such as allegations of abuse or domestic violence.
Wisconsin Bankruptcy Records
In Wisconsin, bankruptcy is a legal process overseen by the Federal Court, not state courts. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court is responsible for handling bankruptcy cases throughout the state and has the authority to make decisions related to these cases.
Wisconsin has two federal court districts: the Eastern District and the Western District. The Eastern District of Wisconsin operates from three courthouse locations: Green Bay, Milwaukee, and Oshkosh. The Western District, on the other hand, has courthouses in Eau Claire and Madison.
Due to individuals' and businesses' monetary challenges, bankruptcy proceedings have become increasingly common. As such, Wisconsin Bankruptcy Records provide valuable insight into the financial history and status of individuals and companies in the state.
Bankruptcy records in Wisconsin can contain a wide range of information related to a bankruptcy case. Some of the information that these records may have are:
- Personal data of the debtor, including their name and contact details
- A list of the debtor's assets and liabilities
- Information about the debtor's income
- Details about any legal actions taken against the debtor, such as lawsuits, foreclosures, or wage garnishments
- The amount of money owed to each creditor and the priority of each claim
- Information about any bankruptcy exemptions claimed by the debtor
- The type of bankruptcy filed, including Chapter 7, Chapter 11, or Chapter 13
- The name and contact information of the bankruptcy trustee assigned to the case
- Details about any court hearings
- A list of any creditors who attended the court hearing or filed a claim in the case
- Information about any agreements or settlements reached between the debtor and their creditors
- The court's final decision, including whether the case was dismissed, discharged, or converted to a different type of bankruptcy
How To Obtain Bankruptcy Records in Wisconsin?
One of Wisconsin's most straightforward ways to obtain bankruptcy records is through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. This online system allows users to access court records, including bankruptcy records, from anywhere with an internet connection.
Individuals who do not have a PACER account will need to create one to access Wisconsin Bankruptcy Records. A fee per page is necessary for access to these records. One must search for bankruptcy cases and download the essential files to obtain the desired documents.
Alternatively, individuals can visit the relevant courthouse to conduct a PACER document search using self-service computers accessible to everyone. Viewing the materials using these self-service terminals is free of charge. However, charges per page apply when making copies.
Requestors can also make mail or phone requests to the court location that filed the case to obtain copies of court documents. However, such requests will incur search and printing expenses. Acceptable forms of payment include corporate checks, cashier's checks, and money orders.
Having the case number, debtor's name and other relevant information about the case is crucial in accessing and obtaining Wisconsin Bankruptcy Records. It helps get the correct documentation and expedite the request.
Does Wisconsin Have a Case Search?
The Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) is the primary case search system that provides public electronic access to Wisconsin Court Records. The WCCA offers public access to certain records of the Circuit Courts that are part of the Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP).
To search for court case information on the WCCA portal, a user can provide the name of a party to the case, business name, or case number and limit the search results to specific counties or the entire state.
The WCCA portal displays case summaries, including the parties' names, the court official assigned to the case, a description of the case type, and an indicator of whether the matter is ongoing or concluded.
It is worth noting that confidential records such as juvenile delinquency, adoption, child protection, civil commitments, guardianship, and termination of parental rights are not available on the WCCA.
Interested individuals can also access the status of appeals filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals through the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Case Access (WSCCA).
But WSCCA only offers access to cases categorized as "open" from the end of 1993 forward. A WSCCA user can search for a court record by the appeal number, case number, party name, business name, or attorney name.
In addition to electronic access or if a case is unavailable on the portals, individuals can view court records in person at various Wisconsin courthouses. To find the contact information and the location of the appropriate Clerk of Court Office, use these Court System Directories.
Requesters can view the file's contents at public access terminals located within the Offices of the Clerks of Court for cases stored electronically. However, obtaining actual court documents or certified copies of court documents requires a nominal fee.
Counties in Wisconsin
- Eau Claire
- Fond Du Lac
- Green Lake
- La Crosse
- Saint Croix
Courts in Wisconsin
List of Content
- Which Wisconsin Courts Maintain Publicly Accessible Records?
- What are the Common Public Court Records in Wisconsin?
- Does Wisconsin Have a Case Search?