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What are Oregon Civil Court Records?
Oregon civil court records are official reports of the litigation processes and the cases heard by the civil courts within the jurisdiction of the State of Oregon. These records are primarily generated and maintained by the clerk of courts of the state’s various courts and they are typically designed to offer an objective account of the court’s hearings. They contain all information relevant to each civil case as well as details of court motions and motion arguments, court actions, and documents relevant to the case and any court-issued rights or financial claims granted upon concluding the case. As provided by Oregon’s public record laws, civil court records can be accessed by interested and eligible members of the public using the various state-managed resources provided.
Cases Heard by Oregon Civil Courts
Unlike criminal cases, civil cases are typically pertaining to disputes between individuals or establishments. As such, while criminal cases are prosecuted by the state, civil cases are heard based on individual complainants usually resulting from personal injury or property damage. Oregon civil courts have jurisdiction over all civil cases filed within the state’s jurisdiction. The cases heard by civil courts include:
- Cases related to unlawful termination
- Breach of contract related cases
- Consumer complaints
- Landlord/tenant disputes, interpersonal and workplace disputes
- Negligence and battery
- Claims caused by character defamation such as slander and libel
- Tort, equitable claims
The Oregon Civil Court System
Civil cases in Oregon are primarily distinguished by the court which has jurisdiction over it. While most courts in Oregon are unified under the authority of the Oregon Judicial Department the state operates multiple judicial districts with different courts of varying authorities. The state Supreme Court which serves as Oregon’s court of last resort provides centralized support to all state courts within its jurisdiction. Oregon’s court system consists:
- The Oregon Supreme Court
- Oregon Court of Appeals
- Oregon Circuit Courts
- Oregon Justice Courts
- Oregon Municipal Courts
- Oregon County Courts
- Oregon Tax Court
As per Oregon state laws, civil cases begin in the Justice or Circuit court depending on the nature of the case, and the amount of the claim involved (if applicable). Cases in which the claims are less than $7,500 are heard by justice courts while the state’s 27 circuit courts are courts of general jurisdiction. Once the defendant is informed of the suit filed by the plaintiff, a pre-trial conference is scheduled in which the parties involved and their legal representatives negotiate a settlement under the supervision of a judge.
If no favorable agreement is reached, the case proceeds to trial where it is heard by a judge and jury. Upon receiving the court’s verdict, the plaintiff/defendant may opt to appeal the judgment in the state Court of Appeals. Decisions reviewed by the court of appeal may also be revised by the Oregon Supreme Court if the parties remain unsatisfied. Generally, the Supreme Court’s decision is final and binding as the court is considered Oregon’s court of last resort.
What is Included in an Oregon Civil Court Record?
Oregon civil court records typically include details of:
- The place and date the original suit was filed
- The response of the defendant to the original complaint
- Proceedings of the pre-trial hearing/conference.
- The evidence produced by either party
- Records of court actions, motions, appearances and motion arguments.
In addition to the above, court records detail the court’s final judgment as well as the financial settlements granted (if applicable). Records also include amounts and conditions of spousal support and alimony, child support, child custody, and child visitation rights. It is usually also indicated if any penalties are issued by the court. This includes jail terms, fines, community service or probationary conditions. If the judgment is reviewed, records will likely feature the appellate court process, with all updated verdicts indicated with each appeal made.
Are Oregon Civil Court Records Open to the Public?
As provided by Oregon’s public record laws, civil court records can be made available to interested persons on request. However, while the state of Oregon supports the right of the public to access civil court case information, these rights are not absolute. Records which are deemed ‘open’ are made accessible to the public with only a few restrictions while those sealed by court order, or deemed confidential may only be made available to selected persons. Court records or information exempted from public access are indicated in ORS 192.345 and 192.355. They are as follows:
- The personal and contact information of selected persons including assault victims, juveniles, minors, and vulnerable persons
- Reports, documents presented by social service personnel and by extension, most welfare cases
- Selected information pertaining to legal actions in which public offices are involved
- In some cases, details of the amount paid in settlement
- Details of the financial status of the parties involved as well as their social security numbers, financial bank account numbers, and credit card numbers
- Records and reports pertaining to psychological evaluation and mental health assessments.
- Records pertaining to nolle pressed charges
General court case information such as court actions, motions, orders, motion arguments, court appearances, and dispositions are usually available to the public. While public court records are accessible via online resources confidential information is usually not accessible electronically and may only be obtained following in-person requests to the record custodian. Also available to the public are court minutes, opinions, calendars, and court schedules.
Does Oregon Have a Judiciary Case Search?
The Oregon state judiciary maintains a repository of court case information as well as court calendars/schedules. Using the OJD Records and Calendar Search tool, interested members of the public can obtain free access to state court case information and court dates of Oregon circuit and tax courts. In addition to the central record index, various local courts within Oregon’s judicial system operate other online alternatives for retrieving court case information specific to their respective judicial districts. However, while the information available on these resources can be accessed without permission, some records are restricted and unavailable using publicly accessible judiciary case searches. However, restricted persons may be accessed by persons who meet specific eligibility requirements.
How Do I Obtain Civil Court Records In Oregon?
While the requirements for accessing civil court records may vary from court to court in the state of Oregon, interested and eligible members of the public may obtain and view and obtain copies of these records according to the provisions of the law. Oregon civil court records may be reviewed via:
- State-managed, locally-operated or privately owned aggregate sites
- In-person requests to the record custodian
- Written mail-in requests to the courthouse where the case was heard
Accessing Oregon Civil Court Records Online
The Oregon Judicial Department operates the Oregon Judicial Case Information Network (OJCIN) which serves as the state’s official register of court information and central online repository for judicial records. As the state’s primary resource, the OJD website features various tools for accessing civil court records online. While there are other alternatives for accessing local records maintained by the state’s judicial districts, the options available on the OJD website allows for state-wide record searches. However, as is the case with online resources, the available records exclude any confidential information or sealed court records.
The OJCIN OnLine comprises the Oregon eCourt Case Information Network and the Appellate Case Management System (OECI and ACMS) which are subscription-based resources for accessing civil court case information from the Oregon circuit and appellate courts. To use either resource, interested persons are required to Subscribe to OJCIN. Users are issued unique login information with which to access these resources.
How to Use OJCIN OnLine
Users are typically charged a monthly subscription fee which is often unique to the needs of the subscriber. Details of these fees can be viewed using the Fee Schedule.
Confirmed subscribers may proceed to use the Access OECI & Access ACMS to obtain civil court case information using their assigned login information. While the OECI can be used to access records managed by Oregon circuit courts, the ACMS provides records access for Oregon Appellate Courts and the state Supreme Court.
Similarly, the OJD eFile & Appellate eFile can be used for electronically filing, distributing and serving court case documents filed in courts within the jurisdiction of the state. Only persons licensed by the Oregon State Bar have authorization to use the portal. As such, interested persons are required to register and confirm their eligibility before obtaining information with which to access the online database.
In addition to the above, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
- Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels
Accessing Oregon Civil Court Records In-person
Interested persons may view or obtain copies of Oregon criminal court records by making in-person queries to the designated record custodian. Given the state’s exclusions on electronically accessible records, court case information is usually only available to eligible requestors who indicate their request for a record in-person. All Oregon in-person record requests may proceed thus:
- Find the Record Custodian
Civil court records in Oregon are primarily generated and disseminated by Oregon Justice Courts, Circuit Courts, the State Court of Appeals and Supreme court which have jurisdiction over civil cases in trial and appellate capacities. In order to make in-person record requests for civil court records, the requesting party must proceed by locating the judicial district in which the case was tried.
The location of a record is best determined by the most current status of the case. If the hearing has been conducted and a verdict has been declared, the record will most likely be in the custody of the circuit court clerk or the clerk of justice court in the judicial district where the suit was filed. Where an appellate review of a verdict is ongoing, requestors may find the desired record in the state’s Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. The addresses and contact information of courts within Oregon’s judicial system can be obtained using the OJB Find A Court Tool.
- Gather The Required Information
Upon confirming the judicial district where the suit was heard or the requesting party may proceed to contact the court clerk’s office for the record retrieval requirements of the court.
Since Oregon state jurisdiction’s generally adopted unique operational processes, most record custodians have distinct record retrieval requirements. However, requestors are generally required to provide any information required to facilitate record searches including the full name of the parties involved, as well as the case file number, docket number or appellate file number of the record. Additionally, the requesting party may have to provide general case information which includes the full names of the litigant(s) of one or both parties as well as the approximate date on which the suit was originally filed.
- Request the Record
Requestors are advised to schedule their visit to a record custodian beforehand. However, in-person requests can generally be made to the office of the court clerk of the appropriate court during official working hours. If the record of interest is public information and does not require certification or authentication, requestors may be allowed to self-serve using public access terminals available in the courthouse. Where certification is required or the record is confidential, the requesting party may be provided with a request form on which they will be required to indicate details of their request.
- Provide Identification & Fee Requirements
Generally, record custodians require the requestor to present a government-issued photo ID in order to confirm their eligibility to access a record. This is in addition to the court order required to access confidential or sealed records. Other forms of ID may be accepted in place of a government-issued ID. However, the acceptability of a document is determined by a record custodian. Additionally, requestors may be charged a standard search or copy fee depending on the record requested, copies and whether or not certification/authentication is requested.
Accessing Oregon Civil Court Record Via Mail
Interested Oregon state residents may obtain civil court records by making in-person requests to the courthouse where the case was heard. While the requirements for obtaining these records generally varies, requestors are generally required to prepare a written request containing:
- General information regarding the civil suit, including the approximate date the case was filed
- The type of record required
- Identifying information of the parties involved
- The case file number of the record of interest
- Information regarding the litigants of either or both parties—i.e. their names and/or state bar numbers
- The personal and contact information of the requesting party
In addition to the above, some record custodians may request additional information regarding the record. Thus, the requesting party must obtain full information regarding the court’s record retrieval requirement. Usually, written requests are required to be mailed along with a copy of the requestors ID, a cheque or money order payment of the applicable fees and a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
Accessing Sealed Civil Court Records in Oregon
While the provisions of Oregon’s public records laws allow some information to be sealed or restricted from members of the public, access to confidential civil court records in Oregon may be impacted by the authority of the requesting party.
To access confidential court records, interested persons may challenge the confidentiality of the records by requesting a court-issued order or subpoena. For records filed within the state, the subpoena must be issued by an Oregon licensed judge. Subpoenas are generally issued in cases where the requested record(s) have been proven to be legally or financially relevant. Additionally, requestors may be required to obtain written consent from the subject(s) of the record to access the document.
Given the restrictions on the distribution of confidential records all requests for sealed or confidential records must be made in-person to the office of the record custodian.
How Do I Obtain Oregon Civil Court Records For Free?
The Oregon Judicial Department features a Smart Search Tool which allows interested members of the public access to civil court records at no cost and without registration or related protocols. The Online Records Search feature only provides users with public and non-authenticated records which may not be used for official purposes unless certified by a court clerk.
Interested persons may access the online register either remotely or using the public terminals available at the courthouse of the applicable jurisdiction. Intending users are advised to study the Online Record Search User Guide for information regarding the use of the register.
The requesting party is required to furnish the search tool with specific criteria including the file number of the desired record or the full name of either of the parties involved. The information provided to each user typically includes general, case information, selected information regarding the plaintiff/defendant, court actions, motions and motion arguments, event entries, and dispositions. To obtain other information, requestors may query the record custodian in person or subscribe to use the OJCIN Online register.
Other Oregon Civil Court Information Resources
The Oregon Judicial Branch website also includes other court resources managed by the state judiciary. These resources also provide access to court opinions and minutes as well as court schedules/calendars, forms, and miscellaneous publications.
Opinions are typically expressed/issued in the course of a civil court proceeding. They are contained in the court’s minutes along with any agreements or contradictions to the opinion. The Supreme Court Opinion page allows access to opinions issued by the state Supreme court as well as additional information from the Opinions Digital Collection. Results, including all associated documents, will be provided based on the case number provided by the user.
The OJD records and calendar search page provides members of the public with access to basic case information as well as access to court dates and calendar information. Using the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals Calendar Search tool, interested persons can conduct online searches for court schedules using the case file number of the civil suit or the approximate date on which the case was filed.