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What are Pennsylvania Civil Court Records?

Pennsylvania civil court records are records of civil or non-criminal proceedings generated in courts within the state's jurisdiction. They may include motions, orders, dockets, transcripts, judgments, and other documents containing information that is relevant to a civil case. Civil cases typically involve disputes between individuals and organizations, not offenses against the state. Contract disputes, cases of negligence, consumer complaints, and personal injury are examples of civil cases. Civil disputes may also be resolved through mediation or arbitration.

Civil court records are maintained by the Clerk of Court where the case is filed and heard and may also be accessed online through Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System portal, the PAeDocket app, and third-party websites such as

In Pennsylvania, civil proceedings are handled by minor courts, such as Magisterial District Courts and Municipal Courts, and Courts of Common Pleas. The Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction over cases beyond the jurisdiction of minor courts, and it shares jurisdiction over some smaller cases.

Are Civil Court Records Public Records In Pennsylvania?

Under Pennsylvania's Right to Know Law, most civil court records are available to the public upon request. This law was made to ensure that the public can understand court decisions, assure the public that justice is being served with fairness and impartiality, and promote faith in Pennsylvania's justice system. However, confidential information and records or information restricted by law from public access are exemptions to this law. Exemptions may include:

  • Juror notes
  • Names of minors
  • Social security and financial information
  • Information about protected persons in domestic violence or abuse cases
  • Child support records
  • Other records sealed by court order

Records sealed by court order may only be accessed by authorized persons such as persons named on the record, designated representatives or attorneys, and law enforcement agents. Access to sealed or restricted records may be granted for specific legal purposes only. Also, names and other personal information of minors may be redacted in civil court records. The rest of the record, which is not confidential, will be available to the public.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

Types of Cases in Pennsylvania Civil Court

Civil courts in Pennsylvania hear all non-criminal cases, such as disputes and claims between individuals, family-related cases, private and public institutions. Examples of civil court cases include:

What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases?

Criminal cases are cases of violations of the state criminal law and are considered offenses against the state. Criminal offenses in Pennsylvania are classified into felonies, misdemeanors, and summary offenses. Felonies, including violent crimes such as murder and arson, are the most serious offenses and attract the harshest penalties under the law. Misdemeanors and summary offenses are considered less severe than felonies but also attract penalties, which could include imprisonment, fines, forfeiture, or probation.

In a criminal case, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a judge and jury that the defendant is guilty.

Civil cases are non-criminal cases in which court action is not initiated by the state but by individuals or organizations. In civil cases, the plaintiff does not need to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt; the plaintiff only needs to present more persuasive evidence than the defendant before a judge and jury.

The processes involved in criminal cases are also different from those required in civil cases. A judge must hear criminal cases, and conference officers or hearing masters may hear some civil cases. Persons found guilty of criminal offenses may face penalties like imprisonment, while civil cases do not typically involve imprisonment.

In a criminal case, defendants may appeal a conviction or the judge's decision to a superior court or the supreme court. In a civil case, either party may appeal the decision to an appellate court.

How Do I Find Civil Court Records In Pennsylvania?

Records of civil court cases are kept by the Clerk of Court or the court office in the courthouse where the case is filed and heard. Interested persons may inspect records or obtain copies in person at the courthouse, online through the UJS portal and third-party websites, and by mail.

Civil court cases are heard by Courts of Common Pleas and minor courts, such as Magisterial District Courts, Municipal Courts, and Traffic Courts. Each judicial district in Pennsylvania has a Court of Common Pleas and Magisterial District Court, except Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which have Municipal Courts. To inspect or obtain copies of civil court records, requestors must first identify the court at which the record of interest is maintained.

Typically, a civil case is filed and heard at the court closest to the venue of the dispute or where the persons or organizations involved in the case are domiciled. The Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System provides details of Courts of Common Pleas and Magisterial District Courts in each county. It also provides information about the Municipal courts in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Once the court where the record is maintained has been identified, requestors may also need to identify the specific department or division where the record is maintained. This is because civil court records may be maintained by different divisions of the court, depending on the case. For example, records of domestic cases may be maintained by a different division from records of work-dispute cases.

Upon successful identification of the record's location, requestors may schedule a visit to the courthouse where the record is maintained or mail their written requests to the courthouse. Requestors must provide information sufficient for the identification of the record. This could include the docket or case number, the date when the record was filed, names of persons or organizations on the record, or details of claims involved. Requestors may also be required to fill request forms, such as the Request for Official Records of Magisterial District Courts or the Request for Access form.

Requests submitted by mail must be sent in a self-addressed envelope to the courthouse along with a copy of the requestor's government-issued identification and the applicable fees.

How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?

To find Pennsylvania Civil Court records online, requestors may use the electronic resources provided by Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System. These include the UJS Portal and the PAeDocket application. Records may also be accessed through third-party websites.

The UJS portal provides access to statewide case documents such as docket sheets, court calendar schedules, and court summary information for Pennsylvania's Appellate Courts, Common Pleas Courts, Magisterial District Courts, and Philadelphia's Municipal Courts. Its use is guided by the Case Records Public Access Policy.

The UJS Portal allows users to search for case records using:

  • Docket number
  • Court name
  • Citation number
  • Date filed
  • Organization
  • Participant name
  • State identification number
  • Offense tracking number
  • Parcel
  • Police incident/complaint number
  • County
  • Court office

The PAeDocket application also provides case information such as charges and case status. The application allows users to search using:

  • A state identification number
  • Case number
  • Police incident number
  • Organization name or participant name
  • Offense tracking number

Civil court records are available for free on the UJS portal.

How to Get Civil Court Records Removed

In Pennsylvania, case dockets, court opinions, motions, orders, judgments, documents constituting evidence, and other civil court records may not be expunged or removed as they are considered public records (18 pa.c.s.a. 9122). Expungement only applies to criminal history records in Pennsylvania. However, all or parts of the information contained in civil court records may be sealed by order of the court.

How to Seal Civil Court Records in Pennsylvania?

To seal civil court records in Pennsylvania, petitioners must file a motion with the court to explain why the request was made. If the court finds that it is in the interest of justice or public interest that court records be sealed, the request may be granted.

Records sealed by court order may only be accessed by authorized persons such as persons listed on the record, their designated representatives, attorneys or legal representatives, select law enforcement agents, and persons otherwise authorized by court order.

Civil court records may also be partially sealed. This means that portions of the record that contain confidential information or information otherwise made inaccessible to the public by court order will be removed from the record.

Confidential information on a civil court record may include:

  • Social security number
  • Financial account information
  • State identification number
  • Driver's license number
  • Names and date of birth of minors
  • Physical addresses of abuse or domestic violence victims

To protect confidential information, record holders and their attorneys may file the information in a confidential form. Alternatively, where the law is permitted, such persons and their attorneys may file redacted and un-redacted copies of documents. Redacted copies do not include confidential information, and the redactions must be done in such a way as to make it evident to the reader.

Regulations on the filing of confidential information vary by counties and courts. The regulations are laid out in the UJS Public Records Policy Chart.

Court-generated documents and non-confidential parts of civil court records will not be sealed or made inaccessible to the public.

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