Instant Access to State, County and Municipal Records
Are Vermont Court Records Public?
Yes, Vermont Court records are public records that may be accessed by requesters. The Vermont Supreme Court makes it explicit for court record custodians to evaluate court record requests based on the Vermont Rules for Public Access to Court Records and the Rules Governing Dissemination of Electronic Case Records, not the Vermont Public Records Act. Pursuant to these Rules, court records are open to any member of the public for inspection or to obtain copies. Specifically, the Rules provide that members of the public be granted access to all case records, except where a record has been redacted or is exempt from public disclosure due to other legal reasons.
Under Vermont court record governing rules, courts in the state are not authorized to provide public access via the internet to criminal or family case records. Vermont courts may permit certain criminal justice agencies internet access to criminal case records for criminal justice purposes. Note that Vermont courts still provide electronic access to court schedules of the Superior Court, opinions of the Criminal Division of the Superior Court, and decisions, recordings of oral argument, briefs, and printed cases of the Vermont Supreme Court.
How Do I Find Court Records in Vermont?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Vermont is to determine the courthouses where the cases were filed. Each courthouse has a designated record custodian, which is usually the clerk of courts. Vermont court records are kept in both paper and electronic formats. Therefore, requesters can access court records either in person at the appropriate courthouse or online via remote access. Note that only case information can be accessed online. To obtain actual court records, requesters are required to visit courthouses in person. Nominal fees are charged to obtain court records through record custodians.
Members of the public can access electronic copies of case information for Vermont Superior Courts and the Judicial Bureau in Vermont on the Vermont judiciary website. Through the VTCourtsOnline users can access electronic copies of detailed case information for the civil divisions (including civil and small claims cases) from Vermont Superior Courts. Detailed case information about the criminal and family division cases, including criminal, domestic, juvenile matters is currently not accessible through VTCourtsOnline. VTCourtsOnline allows users to perform a search by one of these two options:
- Name Query
- Docket Number Query
To use VTCourtsOnline, users are required to set up an account for a one-time price of $12.50. This fee permits users to perform five detailed docket lookups, name queries, and case summaries at no additional cost. However, to view the docket page that shows current docket information, a $.50 fee is charged. Requesters may purchase additional lookups at any period after creating a VTCourtsOnline account.
Note that court records from the Probate Division, Environmental Division, Judicial Bureau, the Supreme Court as well as the Civil Division cases filed in the Chittenden and Franklin units are not available on the VTCourtsOnline platform. However, individuals can access criminal, family, and probate case information at the courthouse public access terminals.
To access case information from the Environmental Division and the Judicial Bureau, and Superior Courts case information for Windham, Windsor, Orange Counties, Bennington, Rutland, Addison, and Chittenden Counties, visit the Vermont Judiciary Public Portal. The portal allows users to gain access to electronic copies of case information by two options:
- Case record number
- Name of a party involved in the case
The portal provides advanced filters for users to obtain a more precise search result through other options such as:
- Case type
- Case status
- Booking number
- Citation number
- Court location
- Attorney bar number
- Attorney name
The Vermont Judiciary Public Portal is a web-based tool that allows court users and members of the public to obtain customized role-based access to court records, hearing calendars, and other data. Other than providing access to court records and data, the portal also allows users to pay court fines online from any location on compatible devices. It is not mandatory to register to use the Public Portal. However, anonymous users can access limited types of cases and hearing information.
Individuals such as attorneys and self-represented litigants who are entitled to elevated access to particular cases in which they were involved are required to register on the portal before submitting a request for that access. The one-time registration on the Public Portal provides on-going elevated access for all subsequent cases in which the person is involved. Non-attorney participants and case parties can request elevated access to the Public Portal by completing the Vermont Judiciary Public Portal Access Request Form. Completed forms must be filed with the court before completing online registration on the Public Portal.
Vermont establishes the following fees for obtaining court records from record custodians:
- $0.25 per page - photocopy of court records or other court materials produced by photocopy equipment
- $10 - Exemplified copies
- $5 - Official or certified certificate
- $5 - Authentication of documents
Visit the court fees page of the Vermont Judiciary website to view other standard court fees in Vermont courts.
Complete the Request for access to court record form and submit it to the appropriate court to obtain a court record in person. In case of a denial, a requester can submit a completed Appeal - request for access to court record form to file an appeal. Use the Find a Court tool on the judiciary website to view the locations of all courts in Vermont.
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 Vermont Courts Work?
Vermont runs a unified court system comprising the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, the Judicial Bureau, and the Environmental Court. Each of the 14 counties in Vermont has a civil, criminal, family, and probate division. The Environmental Division and Judicial Bureau both have statewide jurisdictions.
The current Vermont court system is the product of the 2010 restructuring of the Vermont judiciary which unified the five other different courts into divisions of the Superior Court, setting the Supreme Court as the only appellate court and the highest court in Vermont.
The State Court Administrator (SCA) serves under the superintendence of the Supreme Court and provides leadership and support to court staff and judges. The SCA Office has four divisions:
- Trial Court Operations
- Research and Information Services
- Planning and Court Services
- Finance and Administrative Services
The Vermont court system works to provide equal access to justice, protect individual rights, and resolve legal disputes in a timely and fair manner.
What Are Civil Courts and Small Claims in Vermont?
Vermont Small Claims Courts are designed to be informal, simple, and inexpensive for both plaintiffs and defendants. Court sessions are relaxed, and although lawyers may represent parties, individuals are allowed to represent themselves. Only cases in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $5,000 can be brought before Vermont Small Claim Courts. Individuals and businesses can be sued. Any person who brings a case in which the amount involved exceeds $5,000 to the Small Claims Courts gives up the right to seek more than the set small claims amount. Note that Vermont does not permit plaintiffs to split one claim into many cases to get around the $5,000 limit.
Vermont only allows plaintiffs to sue for money in its Small Claims Court. Hence, a person suing cannot ask for a return of property or repossessing a lost job. Summarily, Vermont Small Claims Courts are not the right court if a case is very complicated or if the plaintiff wants:
- To sue for over $5,000
- To sue for something other than money
- A jury trial
Vermont Civil Courts are the appropriate courts to handle cases of the above-listed types. A plaintiff is required to be at least 18 years of age to sue in a Small Claims Court. Any individual below the age of 18 is required to have a guardian or parent sue on their behalf. The state does not also permit an individual to sue for someone else. For instance, if a couple wants to sue someone, Vermont requires both spouses to sign all the necessary court papers and appear at the hearing. Small Claims Courts cannot guarantee that a plaintiff or defendant who gets a judgment in small claims cases will be paid their dues. Judgment creditors are responsible for seeking alternatives to obtaining winnings if judgment debtors do not pay what the court orders.
Unlike the Small Claims Court, parties are typically represented by attorneys in Civil Court cases, although no Vermont rule prohibits self-representation
What Are Appeals and Court Limits in Vermont?
A party who has legal reasons to be dissatisfied with the outcome of a case in the trial court may file a petition to the appellate court for review of the ruling or judgment of the lower court. This entire process commencing with the filing of a notice of appeal is known as an appeal. Appeals of the decisions of Vermont Superior Courts are filed with the Vermont Supreme Court. The Supreme Court does not hold new trials or consider new evidence in an appeal. The Court reviews what occurred in the lower court or agency and determines if an error was made. Common errors claimed are:
- That the lower court did not follow the correct procedures
- The lower court did not apply the law correctly to the facts of the case
In appeal cases in Vermont, a notice of appeal must be filed with the Superior Court clerk within 30 days after entry of the judgment or order appealed from. However, in criminal cases, the State must file an appeal within seven business days after entry of the judgment or order. While in a criminal case resulting in a sentence of life imprisonment, where the defendant has not waived appeal, the state may file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the judgment entry date.
Vermont considers a notice of appeal filed after the Superior Court announces a decision, sentence, or order, but before the entry of the judgment or order as filed on the date the decision or sentence is entered. In instances where a case party files a timely notice of appeal, any other party may file a notice of appeal not later than 14 days after the date when the first notice was filed.
Vermont appellate procedures are contained in the Vermont Rules of Appellate Procedures (V.R.A.P.).
What are Vermont Bankruptcy Records?
Vermont bankruptcy records are a set of documents that were created and maintained by the bankruptcy court in Vermont. Anyone who has become incapable of fulfilling financial obligations as stated in a contract has the right to file for bankruptcy as it is governed by federal law. The bankruptcy courts in the state are in Rutland and Burlington. Once bankruptcy is filed it prevents creditors from collecting their debt until the bankruptcy is complete. However, bankruptcy cannot wipe out certain debts. These debts include:
- Child support
- Debts not listed when filing for bankruptcy
- Student loans
- Debts incurred from embezzlement
- Debts owed to pension
Different kinds of bankruptcy are filed under the bankruptcy code. Some chapters include:
- Chapter 7 liquidates debtors assets to pay off the creditor
- Chapter 11 is used by businesses to operate without losing assets while they pay off debt from the income generated.
- Chapter 13 allows debtors to file a repayment plan to pay off
How Do I Find My Case Number in Vermont?
Case numbers are assigned to individual court cases for differentiation. No two court cases have the same case number. A case number typically bear characters that can help court record custodians identify specific information such as the year of filing, the case type, and the office where the record was filed. Interested persons can contact the clerk of court in the courthouse where a record was filed to obtain a case number. The clerk of court will ask for other case identifying information such as the year of filing, the type of case, and a case party name. There is a nominal fee attached to this service.
Interested persons can also find case numbers by using the VTCourtsOnline tool or the Vermont Judiciary Portal. By providing the name of a party involved in the case in question, case numbers can be obtained from the matching entry from the search results.
Can You Look up Court Cases in Vermont?
Yes. Vermont provides online access to non-confidential records of some of the courts in the state. Interested persons can access the VTCourtsOnline portal or the Vermont Judiciary Public Portal to look up case information. The VTCourtsOnline portal provides access to detailed case information for the civil divisions of Vermont Superior Courts. Requesters are required to set up an account on the portal for $12.50. Certain jurisdictions also provide access through the public access terminals in the courthouses for the public to look up case information.
Case information for the Environmental Division and the Judicial Bureau is available on the Vermont Judiciary Public Portal. Unlike VTCourtsOnline, this portal can be used without any charges. However, case parties may request elevated access in order to access detailed information for cases involving them.
Does Vermont Hold Remote Trials?
Yes. Per a Supreme Court-issued Administrative Order, Vermont courts now operate differently than they were before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Many court hearings now hold remotely, meaning that some or all of the people required to participate in hearings do so by video or phone, including attorneys and judges. The most commonly used tool video conferencing tool in Vermont courts is WebEx.
Following the apex court's order for all state court hearings to be held remotely, a few exceptions were created. These include:
- Jury trials
- Criminal court or juvenile delinquency evidentiary matters
- Criminal or juvenile delinquency matters where the defendant or juvenile's presence is required by law
Vermont allows members of the public to observe fully remote or partial remote hearings by requesting the court to livestream the proceedings. Requests must be made at least 24 hours before commencement of hearing and emailed to email@example.com. Any such request must include the court location, hearing date, hearing time, names of the parties to the case, and the case number. The Vermont judiciary provides guidelines for participating in remote hearings on its website.
What Is the Vermont Supreme Court?
The Vermont Supreme Court is the highest court and the only appellate court in the state. Hence, appeals from the civil, criminal, family, and environmental divisions of the Superior Courts are filed with the court. The Vermont Supreme Court hears appeals from some administrative agencies and the Probate Divisions of the Superior Court in cases relating to a question of law.
The Vermont Supreme Court does not take new evidence or exhibits in appeal proceedings. It only determines if the lower court judge correctly applied Vermont law to the facts of a case. The rulings of the court are final and can only be appealed to the United States Supreme Court in instances where a federal question is involved.
The Supreme Court oversees the administrative operations of the lower courts in the state and ensures the appropriate legal standards are maintained throughout the Vermont court system. The court also enforces discipline among judicial officers and attorneys as well as admitting attorneys into the practice of law in the state.
The Vermont Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and four associate justices all appointed by the Governor from a pool of candidates selected by the Judicial Nominating Board. The justices are appointed to renewable six-year terms. Cases in the Supreme Court are commonly decided by three of the five justices. To qualify for a judgeship position on the Vermont Supreme Court, a candidate must be an attorney who has practiced more than five of the previous ten years in Vermont and must not be older than the mandatory retirement age of 70 years. The Vermont Supreme Court handles approximately 500 filings and dispositions annually. The court is in Montpelier.
Vermont Superior Court
The Vermont Superior Court is the state's only trial court. It has 14 units, with one corresponding to each county of Vermont. In 2010, the Vermont judiciary reorganized the state's court system and collapsed the existing trial courts into divisions of the new Superior Court. These division are:
- The Civil Division
- The Criminal Division
- The Family Division
- The Probate Division
- The Environmental Division
The Criminal and Civil Divisions hold jury trials, while no jury trials are held in the Environmental and Family Divisions.
The Civil Division of the Superior Court is where trials are held for civil matters. The court may hold jury trials, court trials, and pre-trial conferences. It handles cases relating to:
- Consumer protection
- Protection from stalkers and sexual assaulters
- Contract disputes
- Foreclosure matters
- Personal Injury matters
- Medical malpractice and wrongful death cases
- Land disputes
- United States passport applications
The Civil Division is also empowered to hear appeals from the Probate Division and appeals of some governmental actions. It also has a Small Claims Court which handles disputes between individuals or businesses where the amount in controversy does not exceed $5,000. In the Small Claims Courts, litigants are allowed to represent themselves, thereby eliminating the requirement for the presence of an attorney during court proceedings.
In the Civil Division of the Superior Court, the decisions of the Superior Court Judges are centered around determining if a litigant should recompense the other party for an action or inaction, a party to a case should start or stay actions in certain ways, or a litigant should lose home or property for failure to pay their debts.
Over 5,000 actions are filed annually in the Civil Divisions of the Superior Courts in Vermont. Civil Divisions only have jurisdiction within the geographic area of location.
Sometimes referred to as Criminal Courts, the Criminal Division of the Vermont Superior Court handles matters in which an individual has been accused by the State of Vermont of breaking state laws. The Criminal Division handles matters such as:
- Approving and rejecting search and arrest warrants
- Appeals of final decisions of the Judicial Bureau
- Forfeiture proceedings
- Fish and wildlife cases
- License suspension hearings
The Criminal Division hears guilty pleas and holds jury and court trials. It handles adult drug, juvenile drug, mental health, and DUI cases through its special treatment courts.
The Family Division of the Superior Courts hear cases of domestic issues and other legal matters relating to the family. The court's jurisdiction covers issues relating to:
- Divorces and the dissolution of civil unions
- Enforcement of spousal support (alimony) and child support
- Determining parentage of children, child custody and visitation, grandparents' visitation
- Juvenile proceedings
- Protective services for developmentally disabled persons
- Mental health proceedings
- Abuse prevention proceedings
To aid prompt and timely resolution of disputes in the Family Court, the Chief Superior Judge assigns Superior Judges, Child Support Magistrates, and Assistant Judges to support arbitration proceedings in the division.
The Probate Division of the Superior Court handles cases relating to:
- Settlement of estates
- Administration of trusts created by will
- Trusts of absent person's estates
- Charitable and philanthropic trusts
- Removal and replacement of trustees of certain trusts,
- The appointment of guardians, and of the powers, duties, and rights of guardians and wards
- Relinquishments for adoption
- Name changes and issuance of new birth certificates
- Amendment of birth certificates
- Correction or amendment of civil marriage certificates
- Correction or amendment of death certificates
- Emergency waiver of premarital medical certificates
- Proceedings relating to cemetery lots
- Trusts relating to community mausoleums or columbariums
- Civil actions relating to disposition of remains
- Proceedings relating to the conveyance of a homestead interest of a spouse under a legal disability
- Issuance of certificates of public good authorizing the civil marriage of persons under 16 years of age
- Appointment of administrators to discharge mortgages held by deceased mortgagees
- Appointment of trustees for persons confined under sentences of imprisonment and
- Setting compensation and expenses of boards of arbitrators of death taxes
There are 14 Probate Division Judges in Vermont, all elected to serve four-year terms. No jury trials are held in the Probate Courts.
Environmental law matters in Vermont are handled by the Environmental Division of the Superior Court located in Chittenden County. Its statewide jurisdiction covers hearing and deciding appeals from:
- Agency of Natural Resources and Natural Resources Board
- Act 250 decisions
- Municipal enforcement actions
- Municipal zoning boards
- Agency of Natural Resources and Natural Resources Board enforcement actions
Trials are held in the Environmental Division, but initial hearings may be conducted by telephone by one of the two environmental judges assigned to the Division. In situations where a courtroom hearing is necessary, Environmental Court judges usually travel to the location of the disputed property to conduct hearings using available courtrooms.
Vermont Judicial Bureau
The Judicial Bureau of Vermont generally handles cases relating to traffic offenses, violations of municipal ordinances, and civil violations. The Judicial Bureau has statewide jurisdiction and is located at White River Junction. Cases may be heard at this location or other courthouses in the state.
The Bureau's jurisdiction covers matters related to:
- Fishing, hunting, and trapping
- Animal cruelty
- Burning and waste disposal
- Alcohol and tobacco
- Marijuana (non-criminal)
- Illegal dumping
- unauthorized disclosure of criminal record information
- Lead hazard in housing