While public corruption and cronyism seems to run rampant in South Carolina, there is a bright spot: the public can search for court documents in each county using a massive database first championed by now-retired SC Supreme Court Justice Jean Toal — the same judge tasked with overseeing Alex Murdaugh’s bid for a retrial for the murder of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul. 

In South Carolina, the case file database is known as the public index, and it’s separated by county. The public index houses civil and criminal matters filed in each county. 

Finding a Local Filing 

Visit the case records search page on the South Carolina Judicial Branch website and choose the county by clicking on it in the map. This process works better using a computer or tablet; it doesn’t always display properly on a phone. 

Once you’ve chosen the county, you will see a general disclaimer screen. Click “accept” to reach the search screen.

Enter the name of the person or business on the search screen and click “search.” While you don’t need to know somebody’s whole name, you do need to have at least a partial last name. 

Click on the case number (in blue) to see more details about the case. In general, the information available includes case parties, attorneys, the status of the case, and the list of filings.

To view the case filings, click on the “actions” tab after you click on the case number. 

Criminal case filings can be obtained by calling the clerk of court in the county where the case was charged. They may require you to file a formal FOIA request to get copies. 

In civil cases, you can generally see the documents immediately by clicking on the icon in the document section in the far right column. That will open a PDF file that you can view, save, or print. If a civil filing is not available in the public index, it can also be obtained by calling the clerk of court in the county where the case was filed. 

Appellate and State Supreme Court filings

After a case works its way through the lower court, it may be appealed. In South Carolina, anything filed with the court of appeals or with the state supreme court is available in a digital system called C-Track. 

C-Track works much like the public index does; enter the search terms and click on the case you want. In C-Track, case filings in both civil and criminal matters are available online. Hover over the document symbol in the far right column to see the drop down menu and select which document you want to download.

What to do if you can’t find a record where you think it should be 

  • Check that you are looking in the right county 
  • Check that you spelled the names right 
  • Consider changing your search parameters; you can choose to search by actions filed in a certain span of time 
  • Check C-Track 
  • Call the court clerk’s office to ask for help finding it. He or she may refer you to one of a few places including the clerk of court for appeals and the supreme court, or the clerk for the state grand jury

Where to find federal case files 

The federal court system has its own online platform for viewing documents called Pacer. Using Pacer is not free and you will be required to have a credit card on file to use the website. 

Finding case files in other states 

Unfortunately, online access to case files varies by state, county, and sometimes by jurisdiction within a county. The National Center for State Courts has a list of links to court websites in each state. If court records are not available online, call the clerk of court in the county where the record you want has been filed.

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Contact Beth Braden

Beth Braden

Beth Braden is an award-winning journalist whose mastery of the deep dive is evident in her work.

In addition to Braden’s experience writing about local government, crime and courts, and engaging features from her home state of Tennessee, her byline appears on several internationally-known websites. She is passionate about communicating complex information in an easy-to-understand manner and loves to pore over public records.

Braden joined Luna Shark Media in 2023 armed with a love of truth as she seeks out data from the darkest places, drags it into the light, and provides illuminating analysis. In her spare time, she enjoys quilting, strange museums, and good cups of coffee.

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