Are Kansas Court Records Public?
Yes, court records are subject to the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA). KORA grants anyone the right to inspect and obtain copies of public records created or maintained by state and local government authorities in Kansas except where restricted by another law. In accordance with KORA, it is a public policy that public records be open for inspection by any individual. Kansas defines a public record as any recorded information, regardless of form or characteristics, which is made or kept by or is in possession of any public agency.
A requested record may be exempted from disclosure in Kansas if the information contained therein is considered confidential or if a judicial rule or a federal or state law forbids disclosure. Where the disclosure of a court record information is deemed to constitute an invasion of privacy, that part of the record or entire record may be forbidden from public view. Court records exempted from disclosure in Kansas include:
- Certain criminal investigation records
- Expunged criminal records
- The majority of children in need of care and juvenile records
- Adoption records
- Grand jury proceedings
- Parentage cases filed under the Kansas Parentage Act, K.S.A. 23-2201 et seq
- Juvenile offender proceedings
- Inquisition proceedings under K.S.A. 22-3101 through K.S.A. 22-3105
- Guardianship and conservatorship cases
- Coroner inquests
- Expunged cases
- Parental bypass
- Protection from abuse
- Protection from stalking, sexual assault, or human trafficking
- Uniform interstate enforcement of domestic violence protection orders
Commonly requested and available public court records in Kansas include:
- Court case files and transcripts
- Final judgments from civil and criminal cases
- Court budgets
- Certified oaths of office
The current KORA was enacted in 1957, having been initially proposed in 1979. The Act has undergone several amendments to add exceptions, definitions, and clarifications. The ability to access records related to activities of public agencies is crucial for the transparency of government and the ability for everyone to understand how the government is functioning.
What Shows Up on a Kansas Court Records Search
Kansas Court records are the filings pertaining to a judicial proceeding in the state. This excludes notes, e-mail, correspondence, or similar papers not filed in a court case. Court records include the information and documents filed in a court case.
A Kansas Court records search can be conducted online, in writing by submitting a Request Form, or in person at the court that handled the case. A court record search helps people retrieve case information, understand court proceedings, and educate people on how the judicial process works. In a court record search, people see a case's timeline, court decisions on several offenses, and how different cases are handled. All court records generated in Kansas comply with the Supreme Court Rules and District Court Rules.
How Do I Find Court Records in Kansas?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Kansas is to verify the courthouse where the cases were filed. Kansas court record custodians keep court records in both electronic and paper formats. In the Kansas judicial system, Clerks of Courts are the designated court record custodians. Requesters can access Kansas court records in any of these ways:
- An in-person visit to the local courthouse to obtain a paper copy
- An in-person visit to the local courthouse to access an electronic copy through a public access terminal
- Remote access to the Kansas Courts or the local courthouse website to access an electronic version in jurisdictions where such provision is provided
Kansas Court Records Public Access
Online access to case information of court records from Kansas District Courts is provided on the Kansas Courts website. The Kansas eCourt Public Access Portal uses the centralized case management system to provide case information through from the following districts:
- 4th Judicial District: Anderson, Coffey, Franklin, and Osage counties
- 6th Judicial District: Bourbon, Linn, and Miami counties
- 8th Judicial District: Dickinson, Geary, Marion, and Morris counties
- 11th Judicial District: Cherokee, Crawford, and Labette counties
- 14th Judicial District: Chautauqua and Montgomery counties
- 19th Judicial District: Cowley County
- 21st Judicial District: Clay and Riley counties
- 31st Judicial District: Allen, Neosho, Wilson, and Woodson counties
Users can perform a simple search for case information by providing the case number or name in last, first, or middle suffix format options. For more precise search results, the online platform provides other advanced filtering options such as:
- Attorney bar name
- Attorney name
- Case cross-reference number
- Citation number
- Case type
- Case status
Not all judicial districts are currently participating in the Kansas eCourts program. Three judicial districts provide online access to case information on their individual court websites. Requesters can search court records of the 3rd judicial district (Shawnee County) through the district's public access system for free. Court records of the 10th judicial district (Johnson County) can be accessed online through the Johnson County Kansas District Court Public Records webpage for free. Kansas 18th judicial district (Sedgwick County) provides online access to court records in the district through the Sedgwick County Subscriber Access Network. Note that this access network charges a fee of $1.50 per search and $1.50 per case retrieved for view on its online platform.
The Kansas Office of Judicial Administration (KOJA) maintains a fee-based case search portal operated by the Kansas government which allows users to find information regarding Kansas District Court records cases. Users of the KOJA portal are afforded access to a register of actions but not actual court records. A search on the portal costs $1.50 and an additional $1.50 per case retrieved. Where no cases are available for retrieval after performing a search, the requester will still be charged $1.50 for a search. The following records are not available via the KOJA District Court Records Search portal:
- Sedgwick County (cases before 2003)
- Wyandotte County (cases before July 2004)
- Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Clay, Coffey, Cowley, Crawford, Dickinson, Franklin, Geary, Labette, Linn Marion, Miami, Montgomery, Morris, Neosho, Osage, Riley, Wilson and Woodson Counties
Obtaining case information from Sedgwick and Wyandotte Counties requires a KOJA subscription. Subscription costs $125 annually.
Members of the public can also access electronic copies of appellate case records through the Kansas appellate case search tool on the Kansas Courts website. The portal allows users to perform a search by using the appellate case number or the case name. To search a case by appellate case number, the five or six-digit appellate court case number is required. To conduct a search using the case name option, users must enter a party's name and/or the county's name.
If a public record is not available on public access portals, a requester can still find it using a public access terminal at the courthouse where the case is filed. By law, Kansas District Courts are required to maintain a courthouse terminal to be made accessible to the public for viewing and obtaining case records and events indices. Sealed cases and records cannot be accessed through courthouse terminals.
Note that not all jurisdictions provide remote online access to court records. In jurisdictions where online access to court records is not provided, or where individuals prefer to obtain actual court records or certified copies, a visit to the local courthouse where the record is on file will be required. Requesters may visit the locations of Kansas District Courts on the Kansas Judicial Branch website. In-persons requesters will be required to complete the Court Record Request Form for submission to the appropriate record custodian.
How to Conduct a Kansas Court Record Search by Name
There is a Case Inquiry System for the Kansas Appellate Courts that can be used to conduct a court record search by name. All that is required is to input the case name in the appropriate search box and click the Submit Query button. The search result will reveal every case with the search name.
A requester can use the Court Record or Public Access Portals to access records handled by Kansas District Courts. To conduct a party or company name search via the Court Record portal, fill in the requirements under the court-type search criteria. The Public Access Portal has a Smart Search tool where individuals can search for records by last, first, or middle name. These online services are charged.
Alternatively, a requester can conduct a Kansas court record search by name at the courthouse where the case was handled. Kansas District Courts have public computers that are reserved for public court records searches. However, requesters must be able to provide a case number, case party name, attorney name, or judge's name to facilitate the search. A copy of the court record can be printed or retrieved from the court staff when the necessary fees have been paid.
How to Get Kansas Court Records Online for Free
The Kansas Appellate courts allow record seekers to get court records online for free via the Appellate Case Inquiry System. To locate this free online search tool, click on the Cases & Decisions menu at the top bar of the Kansas Judiciary homepage. Then click “Cases” from the dropdown. Afterward, click the “Search appellate cases” menu that leads to the search page. Individuals can access court records by entering the five- or six-digit appellate court case number or the party's name and/or the county's name. Requesters are advised to read the information on the "Help" screen before conducting a name and/or county search.
The Kansas District Courts provide online low-cost court records search services to individuals via the Court Record and Public Access Portals. Court record searches can cost as low as $1.50 per search and per court. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Kansas also provides access to bankruptcy records via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) tool at a charge of $0.10 per page. Inquirers can view bankruptcy records for free at the public terminal in the courthouse.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, court records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
Types of Courts in Kansas
Kansas judicial system is divided into the following courts:
- Supreme Court: This is the highest court in Kansas, and its decisions set binding legal precedents for lower courts. The Kansas Supreme Court handles cases first heard by the Court of Appeals, district court appeals on serious criminal cases, and cases in which a statute has been declared unconstitutional. This court had seven justices selected through a merit-based nomination process.
- Court of Appeals: This is an intermediate appellate court that handles civil and criminal cases appealed from District Courts. This excludes cases appealed directly to the Supreme Court. The Kansas Court of Appeals also handles appeals administrative agencies like the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals, the Kansas Corporation Commission, and the Kansas Workers Compensation Appeals Board. The Court has 14 judges.
- District Courts: These are trial courts with general original jurisdiction over all cases. Examples of such cases are damage suits, juvenile matters, conservatorships, divorce, and domestic relations, care of the mentally ill, probate and estate administration, guardianships, and small claims.
- Municipal Courts: These are also called city courts. They handle cases relating to violations of city ordinances committed within city limits. These cases usually involve traffic and other minor offenses. Municipal cases are heard without a jury, only the judge.
- Specialty Courts: These are also called problem-solving courts. Specialty Courts were created to help enter treatment programs that will prevent them from committing offenses that keep bringing them before a judge. The types of Specialty Courts available in Kansas are Drug Courts, Veterans Treatment Courts, Behavioral Health Courts, and Youth Courts.
What Shows Up on Kansas Judgment Records?
Kansas judgment records describe the outcome of a case decided in a court of competent jurisdiction in Kansas. A judgment is an order or court-issued declaration of legal rights based on state laws. Issuing this judgment typically closes a criminal or civil suit unless a party appeals the decision in a higher court.
The clerk of courts is the designated record custodian for judgment records, which are public records per the Kansas Open Records Act. To obtain this record, visit the clerk's office in person during regular business hours and submit a formal request. The court administrative staff will need the case identifying details, such as case number and litigants' names, to process the request. Furthermore, the requester must pay the applicable processing fees.
The information contained in these documents varies with case type. Still, persons who obtain judgment records in Kansas can expect to see the litigants' names, the judge's name, and the judgment date. The document will also contain a case description and the court's decision, such as the issued judgment.
Are Kansas Bankruptcy Records Public?
Kansas bankruptcy records are considered public. Such records, including Kansas liens, writs, and judgments, may be obtained by querying the record custodian in the judicial district where the original filing was made. The requesting party may be required to provide information to facilitate the search and pay a nominal fee to cover the cost of copying the record of interest
Bankruptcy records are documents generated and preserved by the bankruptcy court in the state. A debtor who is having trouble repaying a loan on time might apply for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy petitions can be filed in any of Kansas' three courthouses, located in Kansas City, Topeka, and Wichita. The courts are open between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The three most popular chapters of bankruptcy legislation that debtors use are Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13.
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in Kansas
Members of the public can obtain copies of bankruptcy records by submitting a request at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Kansas office. Online requests can be made via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) tool for a fee of $0.10 per page. Online requesters must first create a PACER account and use their login details to access electronic copies of bankruptcy records. In-person requests can be made at the Clerk's Office. Requesters must visit the courthouse with their IDs. They can use the public terminal at the courthouse to conduct a search or get the court records from the court staff. Paper copies and certified paper copies typically attract fees. The court locations are as follows:
Robert J. Dole Courthouse
500 State Avenue, Rm. 161
Kansas City, KS 66101
Phone: (913) 735-2110
Frank Carlson Federal Building
444 SE Quincy, Rm. 240
Topeka, KS 66683
Phone: (785) 338-5910
Wichita U.S. Courthouse
401 N. Market, Rm. 167
Wichita, KS 67202
Phone: (316) 315-4110
Record seekers can find closed bankruptcy records that are unavailable online or through the Clerk's Office at the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) office. The Clerk's Office can request such records on behalf of the requester. The requester could receive such records by email or in person at the Clerk's Office. Members of the public can pay for bankruptcy records in cash or money order at the Clerk's Office. Attorneys can pay by personal check. The Clerk's Office does not accept credit cards, but such payment methods are acceptable for copies retrieved through PACER.
Can You Look Up Court Cases in Kansas?
Yes, Kansas court case lookups are available for non-confidential cases through several portals provided by the Kansas judicial branch or on the individual portals created by other District Courts in the state. The majority of the District Courts provide case information through the Kansas eCourt Public Access Portal. Shawnee, Johnson, and Sedgwick Counties all provide separate portals to case information of court records in their District Courts. The state also provides appellate case information on its Appellate Case Search Portal.
Kansas Court Case Lookup Exemptions
Per Kansas Open Records Act, some court records are exempted from public disclosure. Examples of such records are:
- Adoption records
- Juvenile records
- Grand jury proceedings
- expunged criminal records
- Expunged criminal records
- Criminal investigation records
- Sealed cases and sealed records
Confidential records are restricted to subjects of the records, their attorneys, and government agents. Members of the public who want to access such records must have a court order.
How to Find a Court Docket in Kansas
A Kansas court docket lists each case to be heard, the hearing time, and how much time each attorney has to make its arguments to the Court. Individuals can find Supreme Court dockets and Court of Appeals dockets on the Kansas Judicial Branch website. All that is required is to scroll down each docket page to view past and upcoming dockets. Dockets help people to access cases scheduled by Kansas courts.
Civil vs Small Claims Courts in Kansas: Understanding the Difference
Kansas civil cases are held in the District Courts in situations where the amount in controversy exceeds $200,000. Civil court cases are not always money-related. They include disputes over property, restraining orders, and name changes. Pursuant to Kansas Statutes Ch. 61, Article 27, Sections 1-14, small claims actions may be filed for disputes where the amount in controversy does not exceed $4,000. Kansas defines a small claim as a claim for recovering money or personal property from an individual, business, or organization where the amount involved is $4,000 or less. Small claims courts are useful in the collection of back rent from a tenant who has moved out or a decision on who should pay a disputed repair bill. Eviction cases are not handled in Kansas small claims court.
Kansas small claims courts provide a forum for the rapid trial of simple claims at minimal costs. The court operates under relaxed rules compared to the procedures of the District Courts. Attorneys are not allowed to represent parties in small claims courts before the entry of judgment. However, if one of the parties is a lawyer or was a former lawyer, the other party is permitted to hire an attorney. The Small claims cases are filed in the District Courts where:
- The defendant lives
- The plaintiff resides if the defendant is served there
- The defendant's place of business or employment
- The incident occurred
If a petitioner chooses the wrong location to file a small claims case, the defendant may be able to ask the court to transfer or dismiss the action. Jury trials are not held in small claims court. Cases are handled by a judge. Decisions of Kansas' small claim courts may be appealed to the District Court. The District Court will give a trial de novo, that is, a completely new trial on the original claim. However, new court fees must be paid in cases of appeal. The winner of a small claims case is responsible for collecting the judgment.
Anyone can file a small claims case. However, persons under the age of 18 must be represented by an adult. Kansas does not allow small claims petitioners to authorize third parties to sue on their behalf. Rare exceptions exist in cases where a person is senile or is otherwise unable to appear in person. Even then, a third party may only sue with the consent of a judge.