California Court Records

Why California Court Records Are Available to the Public

In 1968,a law was passed by the California State Legislature and signed by then-governor of California Ronald Reagan named the California Public Records Act (CPRA). The CPRA aims to ensure proper disclosure of court records and other public records to the public. It provides a statutory right to inspect California’s public records and are not required to explain why you are requesting the information.

What Court Records Access Means To You

The law is similar to the Freedom of Information Act, except for the fact that the statement, “people have the right to access the information concerning the conduct of people’s business,” is enshrined in Article 1 of the California Constitution due to California Proposition 59 (the Sunshine Amendment).

Accountability to the Public

When the legislature enacted CPRA, it expressively declared that “access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.” Indeed, in California “access to the government and court records in particular has been deemed a fundamental interest in citizenship” and has emphasized that “maxim disclosure of the conduct of governmental operations [is] to be promoted by the act.” By promoting prompt public access to government records, the CPRA is “intended to safeguard the accountability of government to the public.”

How the California Court Process Functions

Most cases in California courts begin in one of the 58 superior or trial courts located in each of the state’s 58 counties.

The next level of judicial authority resides with the Courts of Appeals. Most cases before the Courts of Appeals involves the review of a superior court decision being contested by a party involved in the case. The legislature divided the state geographically into six appellate districts.

The Supreme Court serves as the highest court in the state and has discretion to review decisions of the Courts of Appeals in order to settle important questions of law and to resolve conflicts among the Courts of Appeals.

See some differences between Civil Court and Small Claims Court below

 

Small Claims

Civil

Appeal

Only the party who was sued can file an appeal; the person who filed the claim cannot appeal

Either party can appeal

Attorney Representation

You cannot have a lawyer file your claim or go to court with you, except for an appeal

You can have a lawyer file your claim and go to court for you

Filling fee for either defendant or plaintiff’s claim

$30  to $100 per claim

$180 to $320 per claim

Pre-trial discovery allowed

No

Yes

How long to complete your case

30-70 days after the complaint

120 days after you file the complaint

You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to file or defend a case in Small Claims Court. If you do not speak English well, be sure to bring someone who speaks English and ask the judge if that person can serve as your interpreter.

You can find an interpreter by using the California Courts Interpreter Search page. Also see the webpage with interpreter information on this website: http://www.courts.ca.gov/programs-interpreters.htm .

How California Court Records Are Structured

The court records category is made up of unlimited civil, limited civil and small claims matters.

Civil unlimited cases are matters where the petitioner is seeking more than $250,000. Close to 200,000 unlimited civil court records are filed with the courts annually. Unlimited civil cases also include other types of disputes that do not involve money, such as cases to resolve (or “quiet”) title to real property, cases asking for civil restraining orders and requests to change your name or your child’s name. Basically, an unlimited civil case is any case that is not a limited civil case under the definition of the Code of Civil Procedure, sections 85-86.1.

Limited civil records contain cases where the petitioner is seeking $250,000 or less. Annually, limited civil court records constitute over 500,000 records statewide and includes the following:

Small Claims Court filings are cases where the petitioner is seeking $10,000 or less and is not represented by counsel. Close to 200,000 of small claims cases are filed statewide every year.

Here are some examples of common Small Claims Court cases:

  • Your former landlord refuses to return the security deposit you paid.
  • Someone dents your fender and refuses to pay for the repairs.
  • Your new TV does not work, and the store will not fix it.
  • Your tenant caused damage to the apartment, and the repairs cost more than their security deposit (Note: You cannot use small claims court to evict someone.).
  • You lent money to a friend, and he/she refuses to pay you back.
  • Small Claims Court can also order a defendant to do something, as long as the claim is also asking for money. For example, the court can cancel a contract or the court can order your neighbor to pay you for your lawn mower or order them to return it to you right away.

 

 

California State Archives

Results Include

Full State Record Report:

  • Name
  • Location
  • Case Number
  • Case Summary
  • Docket
  • Police Report
  • Court Documents
  • Legal Records
  • Case File
  • Statements
  • Transcripts
  • Legal Forms
  • Case Notes
  • Disposition
  • Trial Records
  • Arbitration
  • Case Evidence
  • Witnesses
  • Interviews
  • Descriptions
  • Mugshots
  • Charges
  • Legal Motions
  • Attorney Records
  • Prosecution Records
B.F. Hastings Building in Sacramento circa 1853 – 1st Building of the Supreme Court

B.F. Hastings Building in Sacramento circa 1853 – 1st Building of the Supreme Court

  • State Archives hold over 25,000 cubic feet of records.
  • There are 2,159 judicial officer positions (including commissioners and referees) and nearly 17,000 of total court Employees.
  • There are 2 levels of Courts: trial and appellate.
  • There are 58 Trial courts in California: one in each county.
  • There are 6 Courts of Appeal districts in 9 locations.
  • The highest Court in California is California Supreme Court.
  • Judicial Budget makes up 21 percent share of total state budget.
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