Court Records and Proceedings: What is Public and Why?
Attorneys, journalists, professors, and other professionals will often cite court records and proceedings
in their line of work. Most court records are deemed public record, allowing almost anyone to access the
information by request. Transcripts of depositions and court testimony can often be obtained through
the court system or by purchasing copies owned by court reporters. However, there are some
exceptions on what can be made public and what cannot.
Federal Regulations Regarding Court Records
The right to obtain court records is protected under the Freedom of Information Act of 1966, signed into
law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This law gives citizens the right to access most federal agency
documents, including court records, with a few exceptions. Some information pertaining to national
security, law enforcement protocols, and trade secrets may be labeled confidential and not considered
available to the public.
While the laws can vary on what information is available from state agencies, most follow the federal
guidelines on what information from courts and other agencies is deemed public. The exceptions are
also followed. In most cases, the following information is protected and not made public, even when
revealed in court proceedings and records:
- Mental health records
- Juvenile court records and proceedings
- Drug and alcohol treatment and court records
- Social security numbers, bank account numbers, and certain other financial information
- Domestic violence proceedings
- Paternity and adoption court records
These records are kept confidential to protect those involved in these cases. Records may be sealed or
off-limits, except to members of the agency involved.
Court Reporter Transcripts
Unless they contain confidential information protected by state or federal laws, most court reporter
transcripts can be obtained by the public. This can be a lucrative extra source of income for court
reporters if they sell copies to attorneys, journalists, and other interested parties.
Court reporters who wish to earn extra income by selling copies of their legal transcripts can join Expert
Depos for free. Check out our court reporter tour on our website to learn more.