Montana Court Records

Why Montana Court Records are Available to the Public

In 1895, the Montana State Legislature pass a law named the Montana Public Records Act. This law was enabled with the last changes in 2005 and aims to ensure disclosure of court records and other public records to the public.

What Court Records Access Means To You

The law is similar to the Montana Open Meeting Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted as the Idaho Public Records Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Montana.

 Accountability to the Public

When the legislature enacted Montana Public Records Act, it expressively declared that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state, http://law.justia.com/codes/montana/2005/2/2_6.html . Indeed, in Montana access to the government and court records in particular has been deemed a fundamental interest in citizenship and has emphasized that maxim disclosure of the conduct of governmental operations [is] to be promoted by the act. By promoting prompt public access to government records, the Montana Public Records Act is intended to safeguard the accountability of government to the public.

How the Montana Court Process Functions

Most cases in Montana courts begin in one of the 56 superior or trial courts located in each of the state’s 56 counties.

The next level of judicial authority resides with the Court of Appeals. Most cases before the Court of Appeals involves the review of a superior court decision being contested by a party involved in the case.

The Supreme Court serves as the highest court in the state and has discretion to review decisions of the Court of Appeals in order to settle important questions of law and to resolve conflicts among the Court of Appeals.

Some differences between Civil Court and Small Claims Court below

 

Small Claims

Civil

Appeal

Only the party who was sued can file an appeal. The person who filed the claim cannot appeal.

Either party can appeal.

Attorney Representation

You cannot have a lawyer file your papers or go to court with you – except for an appeal.

You can have a lawyer file your papers and go to court for you.

Filling fee for either defendant or plaintiff’s claim

$30 -$100 per claim

$180 - $320 per claim

Pretrial Discovery allowed

No

Yes

How long to complete your case

30-70 days after the complaint

120 days after you file the complaint

 You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to file or defend a case in Small Claims Court. If you do not speak English well, bring someone who speaks English and ask the judge if that person can serve as your interpreter. The court cannot provide you an interpreter.

You can find an interpreter by using the Montana Courts Interpreter Search page. Also see the webpage with interpreter information on this website http://www.atanet.org/onlinedirectories/individuals_tabs.php .

How Montana Court Records Are Structured

The court records category is made up of civil and small claims matters.

Civil cases are matters where the petitioner is seeking more than $200,000. Close to 175,000 civil court records are filed with the courts annually. Civil cases also include other types of disputes that do not involve money, like cases to resolve (or “quiet”) title to real property, cases asking for civil restraining orders and requests to change your name or your child’s name.

Small Claims Court filings are cases where the petitioner is seeking $3,000 or less and is not represented by counsel. Close to 100,000 of small claims cases are filed statewide every year.

Here are some examples of common Small Claims Court cases:

  • Your former landlord refuses to return the security deposit you paid.
  • Someone dents your fender and refuses to pay for the repairs.
  • Your new TV does not work, and the store will not fix it.
  • Your tenant caused damage to the apartment, and the repairs cost more than their security deposit (Note: You cannot use small claims court to evict someone.).
  • You lent money to a friend, and he/she refuses to pay you back.
  • Any Goods or services sold but not delivered or paid for that does not exceed $3,000.
  • Any money loans that do not exceed $3,000.
  • Any car repair dispute that does not exceed $3,000.
  • Small Claims Court can also order a defendant to do something, as long as the claim is also asking for money. For example, the court can cancel a contract or the court can order your neighbor to pay you for your lawn mower or order them to return it to you right away.
Montana State Archives

Montana State Archives

Results Include

Full State Record Report:

  • Name
  • Location
  • Case Number
  • Case Summary
  • Docket
  • Police Report
  • Court Documents
  • Legal Records
  • Case File
  • Statements
  • Transcripts
  • Legal Forms
  • Case Notes
  • Disposition
  • Trial Records
  • Arbitration
  • Case Evidence
  • Witnesses
  • Interviews
  • Descriptions
  • Mugshots
  • Charges
  • Legal Motions
  • Attorney Records
  • Prosecution Records
Montana Silverbow Butte Courthouse

Montana Silverbow Butte Courthouse

  • State Archives hold over 12,000 cubic feet of records.
  • There are 2 levels of Courts: trial and appellate.
  •  There are 56 District Courts in the state of Montana.
  • There are 22 judicial districts in the state of Montana.
  • The highest Court in Montana is Montana Supreme Court.
  • Eagle Mount
  • ForwardMontana
  • National Forest foundation
  • Project Vote Smart
  • HDRC