California Court Records

California's court system can be confusing. As of February 2001, all of California's 58 counties have voted to merge their superior and municipal courts. Court locations and available online databases are listed on the individual county pages. Many of California's courts have information online ranging from court calendars to case rulings.

Types of Courts:

Small Claims Court -This court is for settling individual grievances and are usually resolved quickly and inexpensively. The person who sues (the plaintiff) and the person being sued (the defendant) can get advice from a lawyer but cannot have one in court with them.  More information...

Superior Courts -California Superior courts consist of 58 trial courts, one in each county. 1,498 Superior court judges are chosen in nonpartisan elections for six-year terms.  These are trial courts where tort, contract, real property rights cases are heard.  Superior courts have jurisdiction over all criminal cases including felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic matters such as DWI/DUI. They also have jurisdiction over all civil cases, including family law, probate, juvenile, and general civil matters. 35 California trial courts have filed amended and new local rules. All local rules are available for viewing and are effective July 1, 2008.

Appellate (Appeal) Courts -Consisting of six districts and 105 judges, California Appellate Courts determine whether a trial court committed legal error in handling cases that are appealed. Judges of courts of appeal are nominated by the governor and must be confirmed by the commission on judicial appointments. Panels of three judges hear appeals, except in death penalty cases, which are appealed automatically from Superior Court to the Supreme Court.

Appellate Court information.

Supreme Court -The Supreme Court is California's highest court. Judges of the supreme court are nominated by the governor and must be confirmed by the commission on judicial appointments. Panels of seven judges may grant review of cases decided by the Appellate Courts. Certain other cases, such as death penalty appeals and disciplinary cases involving judges and attorneys, are appealed directly to this court. Decisions of the Supreme Court are binding in all lesser California courts.

  • Search Appeals Cases -information on California Supreme Court and Appellate Court cases with the exception of juvenile and paternity records which are confidential.

United States District Courts - California - These are trial courts of the federal court system and includes Bankruptcy Courts. Bankruptcy cases cannot be heard by a state court. 

Federal Courts and Bankruptcy Courts located in the state of California

Types of Records:

  • Case Files
  • Dockets
  • Minutes
  • Orders
  • Other types of records found at a courthouse are those submitted and recorded by an individual such as wills, deeds, business contracts, land contracts, and more. Court records can include adoption records, criminal records, deeds, divorce decrees, property records, marriage records, tax records, wills, and much more. Descriptions of these records can be found in the Glossary.