SKAGIT COUNTY DISTRICT
& MUNICIPAL COURTS
The following policies and procedures govern
the release of information to any person who is not a "party" to
the case and is requesting information contained in the records and files
of the Skagit County District Court and the Municipal departments of said
Court. Consistent with state law and confidentiality requirements, the purpose
of this policy is to assist and give guidance to the clerical staff of the
court in handling such requests to facilitate the publics access
to the courts information, not to frustrate or deny such access.
This policy is intended to cover information
contained in both "civil" (including general civil cases, small
claims, infractions, and specialized civil cases, e.g. Anti-Harassment, Vehicle
Impound, and Dangerous Dog proceedings) and "criminal" files, and
is based upon current statutes, case law and court rules.
Individuals considered parties to a case include
the plaintiff(s), defendant(s), and any attorney for a named party who has
filed a Notice of Appearance in the case, and any other Municipal, District,
Superior Court and any criminal justice agency.
- PROCEDURE FOR PROCESSING INFORMATION REQUESTS
- Form of request & Response:
- Written Requests by Mail and
Fax. Any request for information received
by mail or FAX must be submitted on the court prescribed form (Attached).
Such requests made by mail must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed
envelope for the return of copies or the courts written response
to the request. Any FAX requests will have to supply a return envelope
by regular mail prior to the court providing a written response, or
copies of documents. The court will not respond by FAX.
- In-Person Requests at the Counter.
Any request for information made to staff at the counter should proceed
- The requestor should first be directed
to the public access computer located in the witness waiting room
to determine if the information they desire is available there.
- If a further search by staff is necessary
to obtain the desired information, the steps outline in Section
2 should be followed.
2. Searches for Information:
Whenever a search of court records by staff
is necessary to obtain the requested information, the following steps
must be taken:
- Prior to any search, the requestor must
complete the prescribed "Request for Information" form
(Attached), which should include at least one of the following "person-specific"
pieces of information:
1. Civil searches require name only.
2. Criminal and Infraction searches require
two Identifiers name and date of birth, or name and drivers
3. The case number for any case type.
- Once the form has been completed, the
request shall be referred to the courts "Data Dissemination
Clerk", or his or her designee. Depending on the nature of
the request, and/or the difficulty of retrieval of the information,
the Data Dissemination Clerk should advise the requestor when the information
would be available. The request for information should be processed
as quickly as possible.
- Once the file or information has been
retrieved by the Data Dissemination Clerk, and prior to being viewed
by the requestor, the file or information will be screened to determine
if the information requested is exempt from disclosure by specific
court order, state statute or court rule, or case law of the State of
Washington, as described below under Section C. Any protected information
in the file shall be removed from the file prior to viewing by the requestor.
- Once screened, and a determination has
been made that the requested information may be made available to the
public, the Data Dissemination Clerk shall make the file available to
the requestor for inspection.
- Any examination and review of the
original file, records, and information shall take place in the
presence of a clerk. Members of the general public will not be
allowed to take original records for any purpose.
- The clerk when requested,
if the appropriate fees are paid in advance may make photocopies
or certified copies of information from the file.
Copies of documents may be provided to other courts, government
agencies, or law enforcement agencies without charge.
- If a requestor of information has been denied access to a file, or certain information within a file,
the Data Dissemination Clerk shall advise the requestor, in writing,
of the reasons for the denial. In addition, the requestor shall be provided
written instructions on how they may seek a hearing before the judge,
in open court, on the issue of release of the requested information.
- At no time shall the Data Dissemination
Clerk release the records of other courts, even if the information is
otherwise public information. The requestor shall be informed that a
request for such information must be made directly to the court holding
C. ACCESSIBILITY TO SPECIFIC RECORDS
As a general rule, most case records are open to
public access, unless such records have been exempted from disclosure
by specific court order, state statute or court rule, or appellate decisions
of the courts of the State of Washington.
To assist staff, who may be assigned the task of
Data Dissemination Clerk, the following information is exempt from disclosure,
and is therefore not available for public inspection:
1. Affidavits for Search Warrants before
a return of service and inventory has been filed with the court.
2. Mental health, psychiatric and medical reports.
3. Alcohol and drug evaluations and compliance
4. Deferred prosecution evaluations and police
If the deferred prosecution has been dismissed
citation and order of dismissal are
the only record available for inspection.
5. Certified copies of driving records,
abstracts of driving records and compiled reports of arrests and convictions.
6. Judges notes and worksheets.
7. Witness statements and police reports.
- Address of Jurors.