How To Wednesday: Informal Background Check


Before I launch into the “How To” portion of today’s post, let me extend a few words of caution.  This post is going to teach you how to check someone’s history with the Wisconsin Court System.  It is an informal search of public court records.  If you are an employer who is obligated to background check employees, this is NOT a background check process that complies with laws or insurance company protocols.  Further, if you are an employer who is “curious” about an employee or applicant there are laws that govern how you can and cannot use public record information in making a hiring or employment decision.  To be honest,, the best use of this tool is for checking up on an annoying in-law that will give you gossip for the next family get-together. Now that we’re clear, here is How To Do an Informal Background Check.

The Wisconsin Court System keeps an online website that reports court activity which can be searched by name, case number, or county.  Most people want to know about local, Circuit, cases (small claims suits, criminal charges, personal injury cases, probates, etc.)  If you ever hear a lawyer or court official use the term “C-Cap” they are talking about this website – Circuit Court Access Program.

STEP 1:  Go to the Wisconsin Court System website.  Click on “Case Search” and pick “Circuit Court” from the drop down menu.

STEP 2: The next page is a warning (like mine above) that cautions you about how you use any information you may find on the site. If it is your first time using the site, read it. After that, ignore it. It seldom changes.  Click on “I Agree.”

STEP 3:  Enter that information about your in-law! The more information you provide, the more accurate your results will be.

Let me define the Case Number category. Each time a case, whether criminal, civil, small claims, or otherwise is filed it receives a case number. If you are involved in some kind of court proceeding the case number is usually is found on the top right portion of your court documents.  The numbering system has some logic to it.  The first two numbers are the year it was filed.  The letters in the middle indicate what kind of case it is. The final two numbers are the number of that type of case filed.  For example:

“12 PR 36” was the thirty-sixth probate case filed in the year 2012 in that county.

“14 FA 0003” was the third family or divorce action filed in 2014.

Each county maintains separate cases and numbers.  14 FA 0003 in Douglas County is NOT the same case as Ashland County 14 FA 0003.

So as a trial, let’s look at one of my in-laws.  Just kidding.  We’ll check on me instead.  I entered my last and first name. No restrictions on a particular county and hit “Search”



RESULT:  No result?!

This could mean I entered information incorrectly, or that I have a perfectly clean court history! Because this doesn’t make for a very fun ending to the post, let’s try someone who I know won’t disown me for using his name – my dad.

RESULT: You get a list of every court case he’s been involved in:






From that page you can click on any of the individual cases to learn more about the other party or parties, attorneys and outcome of the case. If a fine or judgment was entered against someone you can even check to see if the amount owed has been paid.

Have fun stalking those in-laws, or exes.  As I said, just be cautious about using any information you find about employees.  If you want the dirt on your staff, there are procedures to do that properly so they are given notice and consent to an official background check.

Johanna R. Kirk

Kirk Law Office, L.L.C. 1418 Tower Avenue Suite #6; Superior, WI 54880 715-718-2424