Court Clerks Can Help You Find the Information You Need

When we think about going to court, the first people that usually pop into our heads are the judge in a robe, the bailiff with a badge, an attorney arguing for each side, and maybe a sketch artist for dramatic, high-profile cases. People like the Court Clerk may seem foreign. Administrative officials, however, are often the first line of contact the public has with the courts, and can often provide information and assistance for free.
Whether you are looking for court records, want to file a new case, or need information on when a hearing will be or where to get forms, the Court Clerk’s office is usually the place to start. Let’s say you want to look up case records that are not available online through CourtReference’s resources – your first call will be to the Court Clerk, who can tell you how to access the records. Court Clerks also handle many matters other than trials. Depending on the state and county, Court Clerks may be able to provide you access to court filings and judgments, probate, marriage, birth and land records, or direct you to the appropriate county office that does have these records. Often, Court Clerks are elected positions, so they really are there to serve you as a resident of your county.
Different states and different courts have various names for the Court Clerk role. In most Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas, for example, civil case matters are handled by an officer called the Prothonotary, while criminal case matters are handled by the Clerk of Courts, and there may be a Register of Wills who handles probate matters. In other states, the Court Clerk may be known as the Circuit Clerk or District Clerk, depending on how the state organizes its court system. In larger counties, the Court Clerk’s office may have separate divisions for criminal, civil, family and other matters.
It is important to remember that Court Clerks and other administrative personnel are legally prohibited from giving legal advice – you must consult an attorney if you want to know what the law says or whether you have a good case. To find out where to get forms, how much it costs to file a case, and when your case will be heard, however, the Court Clerk should be your first contact.
When using the CourtReference directory, often the phone number you see listed for a court will be for the Court Clerk instead of the main switchboard. This way you, our users, can more quickly and directly get in touch with the office most likely to answer your questions. If you need to reach the Clerk of Court in your county, visit CourtReference, select your state and then county, and you will see a directory of all the courts in the county.
Have questions about some of the other personnel in a court setting? Please read our blog posting on The People You Should Know In A Court Setting.

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