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Kansas Court Records

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 child 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
  • Divorces
  • 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.

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
  • Remotely accessing the Kansas Courts or the local courthouse website to access an electronic version in jurisdictions where such provision is provided

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
  • Location

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. Requestors 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 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 require 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.

Kansas courts plan to transition to a new centralized case management system that will make all public court records available via an online portal. All state district and appellate courts are expected to have adopted the system by early 2022.

Considered open to citizens of the United States, public 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.

How Do Kansas Courts Work?

There are different levels of courts in Kansas to handle various types of cases. The Kansas court system is led by the Kansas Supreme Court with a chief justice and six justices. The Kansas Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court with a chief judge and 13 judges. The District Courts are the state's trial courts. Each judicial district has district judges and district magistrate judges. Municipal Courts also exist in Kansas. They operate with limited jurisdiction within Kansas City limits handling cases ordinance violations. The Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and the District Courts constitute the unified judicial system of Kansas

Typically, most civil and criminal cases originate at the District Courts. Appeals of the decisions of the District Courts are typically made to the Court of Appeals but are sometimes transferred to the Supreme Court in specific circumstances. Kansas Municipal courts register over 300,000 case filings annually, while the District Courts handle about 400,000 cases yearly. Kansas appellate courts hear over 1,700 appeal cases yearly and render more than 1,300 opinions.

Kansas Court Structure

What Are Civil Courts and Small Claims in Kansas?

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.

What Are Appeals and Court Limits in Kansas?

An appeal involves a petition to a higher court to review the judgment or order made by a lower court judge. The right of parties to proceedings to appeal decisions from lower courts helps to keep judges accountable. The higher court determining an appeal will correct errors by the trial judge in the decision-making process, if any. An appeal process usually begins with the filing of a Notice of Appeal. Timely filing of a Notice of Appeal is jurisdictional. Typically, it must be served on all parties to a case, including the lower court, the higher court, and the opposing parties. However, failing to serve all parties concerned does not affect the validity of an appeal.

In a criminal appeal for a crime committed on or after July 1, 1993, a defendant intending to petition for a review in Kansas, must file a Notice of Appeal within 14 days from the oral pronouncement of sentence in the District Court. Kansas permits both the defendant and the State to file an appeal against a departure sentence. The State has up to 30 days to appeal a departure sentence. Kansas courts recognize certain exceptions to appeal time limits. These exist when an indigent defendant was:

  • Not informed of the right to appeal
  • Not furnished an attorney to exercise that right
  • Furnished an attorney who failed to perfect and complete an appeal

In a civil appeal, a Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days from the entry of judgment. The exception to this rule applies to an order appointing or refusing to appoint a receiver. Kansas stipulates a 14-day window for such situations. Note that an entry of judgment occurs when a journal entry or judgment form is filed. A judgment is only effective when a journal entry or judgment form is signed by the judge and filed with the clerk of the District Court. Kansas does not recognize trial docket minutes or judge's notes as an entry of judgment. Any Notice of Appeal filed after the oral pronouncement of final judgment but before the filing of a journal entry is deemed a premature Notice of Appeal. It only becomes effective upon the filing of the journal entry.

A District's Court extension of the time for the filing of a Notice of Appeal may not exceed 30 days from the expiration of the original time for filing the Notice upon the presentation of excusable neglect.

Kansas permits certain posttrial motions to extend the time for filing a Notice of Appeal if such motions are filed within 28 days of entry of judgment. These types of motions stop the running of appeal time and begin the cycle in its entirety on the date of the entry of the order ruling on the post-trial motion. To step the running time on an appeal, a post-trial motion must be one of the following:

  • A motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict
  • A motion to amend or make additional findings of fact
  • A motion for a new trial
  • A motion to alter or amend the judgment

However, a motion for relief from judgment or order for clerical mistakes, inadvertence, excusable neglect, surprise, fraud, or newly discovered evidence does not extend the time for filing a Notice of Appeal.

In limited action civil appeals, where a case was determined by a district magistrate judge who is not licensed to practice law in Kansas, the Notice of Appeal from the district magistrate judge's decision must be filed in the District Court within 14 days of the entry of the order. After the ruling by the District Court, a Notice of Appeal to the Court of Appeals must be filed not later than 30 days after the entry of the District Court's order, ruling, or judgment. Kansas permits an exception if a defendant is appealing an action for forcible detainer granting restitution of the premises. In that wise, a Notice of Appeal must be filed within seven days of the entry of judgment. The Kansas Supreme Court Attorney Directory can help uses find current information on attorneys licensed in Kansas.

A 14-day window applies for the filing of a Notice of Appeal in juvenile matters such as in any appeal against an order of temporary custody, adjudication, disposition, and finding of unfitness of termination of parental rights. In this case, the appeal is made to the District Court and the order appealed must have been entered by a magistrate judge who is not licensed to practice law in Kansas. The Notice of Appeal from a District Court must be filed within 30 days.

What Are 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 judgment date. The document will also contain a case description and the court's decision such as the issued judgment.

What are Kansas Bankruptcy Records?

Kansas 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.

Bankruptcy records and related recordings, 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.

How Do I Find My Case Number in Kansas?

A case number is a distinct number assigned to a court case. It is useful in determining the year the case was filed, the court that handled the case, and what kind of case it is. Interested persons can find a case number in Kansas by providing the name of a party to the case on the Kansas District Court Public Access Portal or the Appellate Courts Search Portal. A case number can also be found by visiting the local courthouse where the record is filed. Note that a nominal search fee applies for providing this service in Kansas courts. District Court locations in Kansas are provided on the judicial branch's website

Case numbers are quite helpful for both requesters and record custodians in tracking and obtaining court case files promptly.

Can You Look up Court Cases in Kansas?

Yes, case information for non-confidential cases are available 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.

Does Kansas hold remote trials?

Yes. Following, the State of Disaster Emergency Declaration by Kansas Governor, Laura Kelly, in response to confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the state, the Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court issued Administrative Order 2020-PR-045 authorizing the use of two-way electronic audio-visual communication in any court proceeding in the state. Under this Order, essential, non-essential, and any portion of a court proceeding, including all criminal, juvenile offender, civil, probate, child in need of care, or other proceedings under the jurisdiction of Kansas District Courts or appellate courts may all be conducted remotely.

What Is the Kansas Supreme Court?

The Kansas Supreme Court is the apex court in the state. It has overall appellate jurisdiction over all the other courts in Kansas. The court plays an overall administrative role over the operations of the lower courts and sets binding legal precedents on them with its decisions.

The Kansas Supreme Court consists of seven justices who are appointed to serve initially for one year by the Governor through a nomination process by the nine-member Nominating Commission. Justices may be retained to serve six-year terms if successful in retention votes after the expiration of their first year in office. At the end of the six-year term, a Justice may be retained again through another retention vote.

Kansas law empowers the court to appoint the longest-serving member of the seven-justice panel as the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice holds administrative control over the operations and affairs of the Supreme Court.

Kansas Court of Appeals?

The Court of Appeals is Kansas’ intermediate appellate court. It handles appeals from the District Courts in civil and criminal matters except in instances where an appeal falls in the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

No new trials are held in the Court of Appeals for appeals of District Court decisions. The judges only review the trial record from the District Courts, written briefs from the involved parties, and hear oral arguments of the attorneys representing the parties.

There are 14 judges in the Kansas Court of Appeals. Cases are typically heard by a panel of three judges and sometimes en banc, that is, by the entire 14-member team.

Judges of the Kansas Court of Appeals are appointed to initial four-year terms by the Governor with the consent of the state Senate. They may be retained to serve a further four-year term if successful in a public vote. The Supreme Court assigns one of the 14 judges to serve as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.

Kansas District Courts?

Kansas District Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction in the state. Kansas is divided into 31 judicial districts and a District Court located in each county. District Courts are courts of record and have jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases. Under Kansas laws, District Courts are authorized to review decisions of the Municipal Courts. Their jurisdiction cover cases such as:

  • Divorce
  • Domestic relations matters
  • Damage suits
  • Probate and administration of estates
  • Guardianships and conservatorships
  • Mental health
  • Juvenile matters
  • Small claims (up to $4,000)

There are two kinds of judges in the District Courts; District Judges and District Magistrate judges. District Magistrate Judges are not required to be lawyers but have jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanors, juvenile matters, probate matters, and traffic violations. They can sit on preliminary hearings and prosecutions in criminal felonies. The Magistrate Judges also share jurisdiction with District Judges in certain civil matters.

Unlike District Magistrate Judges who have limited jurisdiction, District Judges can hear all types of cases within the overall subject-matter jurisdiction of the District Court. They are required to be trained in law and are authorized to review decisions of District Magistrate Judges.

The Supreme Court appoints a District Judge as Chief Judge for each judicial district. The Chief judge plays a supervisory role over administrative and clerical tasks of the courts in the judicial district. The Chief Judge also plays a vital role in the delegation of cases within the district.

Kansas Municipal Courts?

Kansas Municipal Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. The geographic jurisdiction of these courts only covers the city, town, or municipality where they are situated. Their subject matter jurisdictions are generally linked to violations of city ordinances. They handle cases such as:

  • Domestic violence, DWIs/DUIs
  • Traffic infractions
  • Misdemeanors
  • Parking infractions

Although Municipal Court cases are heard without a jury, an offender may still be represented by an attorney. An aggrieved party may appeal a Municipal Court decision to the District Court in the county where the Municipal Court is located.

Kansas does not require Municipal Court judges to be lawyers. However, those who are not lawyers are required to be certified by the Kansas Supreme Court. Kansas Municipal Court judges are required to complete 13 hours of continuing legal education annually. A Municipal Court judge is authorized to appoint an attorney or any other qualified individual to temporarily act in their stead in instances where they cannot be present for court proceedings.