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Court Records

County and State Court Records

While the Archives does not have a comprehensive collection of all county court records, it does hold older civil order books for many counties, as well as several counties’ older probate and guardianship records. These volumes give the dates and legal actions taken in a case, but do not include transcripts of testimony or submitted evidence.  For some counties, such as Posey and Marion, the Archives also holds case files that include more detailed information.

Counties may send court records to the Archives on a voluntary basis. Many court records are under permanent retention and should be microfilmed and retained as a copy in the county even when the originals are transferred to the Archives. Indiana’s judicial retention schedule is not maintained by IARA and is included in the Indiana Court Administrative Rules:

Court records are most easily located in the Archives Catalog by using the Entity Search to locate the relevant Clerk’s office.

Case filings for all counties back to the 1970s can be located using the Indiana MyCase database:

The Posey County Court Collection

The Indiana State Archives holds the earliest records of the Posey County Circuit Court. The collection includes such documents as writs, summons and subpoenas, transcripts, declarations, depositions, deposition notices, certificates, cost bills, statements, affidavits, and verdicts which pertain to the litigation between early Posey County residents. The bulk of the collection dates from 1815 to 1855, with most of the documents created between the early 1820's and the late 1840's. There are approximately 1200 individual court cases represented in the collection, with anywhere from one to twenty-one documents in each file.

Posey County - the twelfth county created in the state - was formed out of Gibson and Warrick Counties on September 7, 1814 by an act of the Territorial Legislature. It exchanged land with Gibson and Vanderburgh counties several times before reaching its final borders in 1823.

The Posey County Court Collection is included in the Research Indiana Index. Early court records from Posey County were indexed with the aid of an Indiana Heritage Research Grant, with Friends of the Archives volunteers later adding many additional records.

The most notable material in the Posey County Court Collection are those records associated with the New Harmony settlement. New Harmonie was originally founded as the Harmonie religious settlement by George Rapp and his followers. Rapp sold it to William McClure and Robert Owen in 1825, who attempted their own utopian experiment at the settlement.

Marion County Court Records

The Archives holds a large number of Marion County court case files, however they were only delivered from a single storage location and are not complete or comprehensive. They date from 1818 to 1930 and include many kinds of cases, including probate, business transactions, guardianships, civil disputes, common pleas, and some criminal cases. Courts range from Appellate, Board of Commissioners of Marion County, Circuit Court, Common Council, Common Pleas, Criminal Court, District, Justice of the Peace, Mayor’s Court, Probate, and the Superior Court. These in no way include all cases, but nearly 125,000 names have been indexed and included in the Research Indiana Index. The index also includes a large collection of wills originally filed with the Marion County Recorder and now held by the Archives.

The remainder of Marion County's extant court records are held by the County Clerk's office. However, cases appealed from Marion County may appear in the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court records.

Supreme Court Records

The Archives holds the dockets and case files for the Indiana Supreme Court. Early files may be brief and consist only of the final, handwritten judgment, but files from the late 19th century onward often include exhibits and transcriptions of testimony. The Supreme Court cases are continually being added to the Research Indiana Index and processed for access. At this stage, cases from the 20th century may not be included in the database and may need conservation prior to viewing.

Some of Indiana’s notable Supreme Court cases include 1820’s State v. Lasselle (B100205607Q) and 1821’s Clark v. Johnston (B100218505S), which ended slavery in the State. In 1823’s State v. Hudson, the Court upheld a lower court's finding that crimes committed against Native Americans were punishable under American laws, leading to the first execution of a white man for  crimes against indigenous people in the U.S.. 1854’s Falkenburg v. Jones (1854), made Indiana the first state to establish the right for a defendant to obtain court records free of charge.

Some cases are notable not because of their significance in precedent, but their novel concepts, settings, and characters. Read the story of Santa Claus vs. Santa Claus on our blog here:

Indiana Attorney General’s Collection

The Archives holds a large collection of records from the Attorney General’s office. These records include case files and correspondence relating to cases to which the state was a party, including those appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The collection also includes internal legal and financial records for the office.

Included in the Attorney General’s collection are large collections of correspondence covering the 1950s and 1960s, and correspondence and subject files from Attorney General Thomas L. Sendak (1969-1981). Sendak’s files include records relating to criminal and civil law issues of the time such as campus dissidents, possible communists, and unwanted music festivals.