Maine Court Records
Where to Find Maine Civil Court Records
Civil court records are officially recognized accounts of civil court proceedings held within Maine's state courts. The superior courts and the district courts handle civil cases. When a complaint or claim is filed with the court, a record is opened for the case. The progress of the case is documented for future reference and also as an account made available as public information. Interested parties can find these records at the Office of the Courthouse Clerk, where the case was filed or heard. Requesters can also use the search tools provided by Maine.CourtRecords.Org to locate these records.
Are Maine Civil Court Records Public?
The Maine Freedom of Access Act provides citizens of the state access to public information. It includes court records. While some of these records are available for public viewing and copying, others are considered confidential and are not open to everyone, according to Maine's Freedom of Access Act. Additionally, personal identifying information in court records are typically redacted from public viewing. Among them are:
- The full names and contact details of involved parties
- The identity and statements of victims of domestic violence
- Information about minors
- Financial statements, social security numbers, and Identification numbers
Confidential information is accessible only to the parties involved, the attorneys of the parties, court-authorized staff, and law enforcement agencies. Juvenile records are sealed from public access as per §3308. Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Types of Cases in Maine Civil Courts
There is one Appellate Court in the State, the Supreme Judicial Court, and it holds exclusive hearings for appeals for civil cases. Additionally, there are three trial courts:
- Superior Court: has general jurisdiction over torts, claims greater than $6,000 in value, property, contract disputes, civil appeals, and miscellaneous civil cases.
- Probate Court: handles cases of adoption, estate claims, and other probate matters.
- District Court: has shared jurisdiction over torts, guardianships, property, domestic relations, mental health issues, and violation of county ordinances.
What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases in Maine?
Although both criminal and civil cases involve a plaintiff and a defendant, some key differences exist between them. Details regarding these differences are as follows:
- In civil cases, the complainant is the individual, or plaintiff, who takes legal action by filing a suit with the court. In criminal cases, the state files charges against the offender, and the prosecutor oversees the case. Plaintiffs represent personal interests, while the prosecutors defend the interests of the community.
- Civil cases may be resolved in as little time as a day. Criminal court procedures, on the other hand, are longer. Also, more attention to details is given to a criminal investigation process because the purpose of the case is to ensure that justice is served to the right person.
- Civil cases involve disputes between two private legal entities, while criminal cases involve the offender versus the state.
- In civil cases, penalties usually do not exceed the needed action to restore relief or compensate for the injured party. Criminal cases are stiffer, often leading to incarceration.
- Attorneys may or may not represent parties in a civil case, especially for small claims. In criminal cases, attorney representation is mandatory. If the offender can not afford a lawyer, the court authority will provide an attorney for him or her.
- The laws governing civil cases reflect the rights and duties of individuals, while criminal cases are governed by rules that represent society's moral values.
- Civil cases must necessarily involve some form of injury or loss to another. Criminal cases do not require damage to another person or community.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records In Maine?
In Maine, civil court records are kept primarily in the clerk's office of the courthouse. Requesters can visit the actual location of the court, and make requests to the courthouse clerk. Another way to get access to civil court records is to put the request in writing. Some public records in the state are only released upon meeting eligibility requirements. Access is restricted to:
- The persons listed in the record
- The subject's parents and close family relatives
- The spouse
- The legal guardian
- All persons with legal representation or legitimate interest from the holder of the record
The next step is to provide all information necessary to locate the record. Some of this information is:
- The names of the person listed in the record
- The date when the case has filed
- The type of case, that is, the case code
- The case file number or docket number
- The name of the judge that presided on the case
- The location address of the court
The Superior or District Court of interest can be located using the interactive map or the links on the Courthouse Locations by County Page. If it is a town in Maine, use the Courthouse Locations by Town page instead. Note that there is a Family Division within the District Courts system where civil court records about domestic relations are located. Make sure that the request is forwarded directly to the division. The same is true of Small Claims Court. For more information, use the Judicial Branch Directory of the state, or Find Your Court tool to locate the court or division of interest. Civil cases heard at the Supreme Judicial Court are maintained at the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court. Here is the address :
Maine Supreme Judicial Court Clerk's office
205 Newbury Street, Room 139
Portland, ME 4125
Phone: (207) 8224-146
The guidelines for record requests are the same for District courts and Superior courts in Maine. Requests can be submitted by hand or mailed to the:
Judicial Branch Service Centre
P.O. Box 266
Lewiston, ME 04243
All requests must be made using the standard request form. Record search fees cost $20 per name, that is, per box checked in the form's court location section. Searches must include the first and last names of the subject of the record and business names, if any. The best way to verify a search is to visit the court of interest. Records are copied at $2 for the first page and $1 for each additional page. Certified copies that are copies that carry the seal of the court require an additional $5 fee per document. Cash payments are accepted if the request is submitted by hand. Otherwise, money order checks or credit card payments are accepted at the Judicial Branch Service Center. Note that requests for records before the year 2000 require additional processing time. Third-party requests must have a copy of a valid photo identification ready.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?
Maine has no online court records. All interested parties have access to court records either at the local Courthouse office where the case was filed or held or through the Judicial Branch service center.
What Is Included In a Maine Civil Court Record?
The contents of a civil court record are generally representative of the case's nature and the court's jurisdiction that handled the lawsuit. In general, a civil court record in Maine will contain the following:
- A copy of a filed complaint by the plaintiff
- Copies of receipts of court fees and other supporting court documents
- Copies of court summons to the defendant
- Evidence of successful service of process to the defendant
- Names and contact information of the involved parties including addresses and phone numbers
- Notice of rights of both parties and rules of court
- Copies of amended complaint or notice of amendments
- Filed affidavits
- Either written or recorded witness statements
- Court orders such as protection, restraints, and arrest warrants
- Defendant's plea or counterclaim
- Amendments to documentations and statements by involved parties
- Court dispositions judgment and sentences
- Mediation documents
How to Access Maine Civil Court Records For Free
The state of Maine is a predominantly closed records state. It means that most Court documents are not available unless to eligible persons a fee. While viewing documents may be free of charge, the cost of searching and copying may be incurred. The cost of accessing documents in the state of Maine depends on:
- The type of record requested
- The cost of mail deliveries
- The labor consumed in processing the request
- The volume of the request
How to Seal Civil Court Records in Maine
To seal a record is to hide it from public access. Maine state laws do not have an expunction statute. Therefore the sealing of records is the sole mode of rendering a record invisible in the legal system. When the privacy interests of the involved parties outweigh the public right to information, then the court issues an order to seal the record. In some cases, an involved party can petition the court to have certain information sealed from access for a time frame. Such petitions must be put into writing and filed with the court with current jurisdiction over the case. When the court receives the petition, a formal hearing is scheduled to decide if the request to be approved. The request must be spelled out in the petition because it will form the basis for approval or otherwise of the request. If the judge deems the petition credible based on state laws, a court order to seal the record and other related documents is submitted. When the record is sealed, a search for it will return no results. However, it is still visible to the court authorities, the subjects of the record and law enforcement agency delegates under the laws of the state. Court staff is not authorized to release information from a sealed document without a court or executive order.
How to Access Sealed Civil Court Records in Maine
Sealed civil court records in Maine are invisible to the public when requested. Anyone who wishes to view or copy a sealed court record must challenge the court's decision. If the court judges the petition credible, a court order is issued to the petitioner with which he or she will request the record. Court orders to unseal a record for investigation purposes may involve the participation of the State Police.