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Court Records & Confidentiality

Many people are not aware that they can look at most court records.  Public access to court records and court proceedings is constitutionally guaranteed except in limited circumstances.  By State and Federal law, certain types of cases are provided almost complete confidentiality of both the proceedings and records of the court, such as in Juvenile Court cases or adoptions.  In certain other instances, a court can order all or part of its records and/or proceedings in a case be closed to the public.

Under the Wyoming Juvenile Justice Act, Juvenile Court records are confidential and protected from public view.  Juvenile Court proceedings, unless a jury trial is demanded, are also closed and protected from public view.  The exclusion of the public from access to information in Juvenile Court records and proceedings is constitutionally permissible because the states have an interest in protecting the best interest of children.

Similarly, adoption proceedings are confidential and upon adoption, all the records are sealed.  Wyoming law allows for the appointment of a confidential intermediary (see forms) who has special training if, after the adoption records are sealed, an adult adoptee or an adoptee’s adoptive or biological parents requests access the court records to locate biological relatives or information regarding the biological parents’ medical or family history.  The contents of the adoption record may not be revealed to anyone other than the confidential intermediary and the information therein regarding identities may only be released by the confidential intermediary with permission from all parties with an interest in protecting their own identities.

There are several types of civil cases that are inaccessible to the general public. Cases involving mental health issues and workers’ compensation matters are confidential.  Court cases opened to determine the risk posed to the public by persons who have been convicted of sex crimes are confidential during the assessment process.  The court records in a civil suit for the establishment of paternity are confidential with the exception of the final judgment in the matter.  Within court records open to the public, any medical, psychological, sociological, financial, school, welfare and/or internal revenue records which are filed with the court remain confidential and will be sealed from public view.

Certain criminal proceedings and court records may be closed to the public if confidentiality is mandated by a court order.  Access to criminal proceedings involving the sexual molestation of a minor victim may be limited or otherwise restricted by the court if confidentiality of the victim’s identity is requested by the minor victim or on behalf of the minor by a guardian or a prosecutor.  The court will accommodate the request and order the file closed to the general public, although it may allow the press access to report on the criminal charges therein against the defendant, contingent upon not disclosing, in any form, information which would reveal the minor victim’s identity.

Court records which are not open to the public make up a very small percentage of a court’s total records.  The majority of court records are public records which are open for inspection.  There are many circumstances from choosing a child care provider to genealogy research which would warrant a trip to the Clerk of Court office for the municipal, circuit or district courts to research the information available in criminal, civil or probate records.