How Do the Oregon Circuit Courts Work?
Oregon Circuit Courts are also referred to as courts of general jurisdiction because, as trial courts, Circuit Courts decide a wide range of cases. Some of these include civil, domestic relations, criminal, traffic, juvenile, violations, small claims, abuse prevention act, adoption, probate, mental commitments, and guardianship cases. These courts are also “courts of record,” which means that every word spoken in the course of a trial is recorded. The records are also preserved and made available if the court’s decision is appealed. Circuit Courts are operated by the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD).
Apart from being a court of general jurisdiction, the trial courts are actively involved in self-initiated and legislatively initiated programs. These programs are created to offer improved case resolution processes and decision making for cases presented. The courts also assist treatment courts (alcohol, drug, mental health, veterans courts), family courts, domestic relations centers, parental education programs, and juvenile court improvement programs. This assistance includes website resources for self-represented litigants, mediation and arbitration programs, and jury management programs (one-trial/one-day service).
Most appeals from the Circuit Courts go to the Oregon Court of Appeals. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appoints a presiding judge for a two-year term in each judicial district. The presiding judge is responsible for the direction, supervision, and workload allocation of the district. The court also has Court Administrators who manage daily business operations, including budget and finance, personnel, and jury management. Court administrators are supervised by the presiding judge.
Some restricted cases go directly to the Oregon Supreme Court if appealed from the trial court level. There are Circuit Courts in each of the state’s 36 counties, which are organized into 27 judicial districts. They include:
- First Judicial District—Jackson
- Second Judicial District—Lane
- Third Judicial District—Marion
- Fourth Judicial District—Multnomah
- Fifth Judicial District—Clackamas
- Sixth Judicial District—Umatilla, Morrow
- Seventh Judicial District—Gilliam, Sherman, Hood River, Wheeler, and Wasco
- Eighth Judicial District—Baker
- Ninth Judicial District—Malheur
- Tenth Judicial District—Union and Wallowa
- Eleventh Judicial District—Deschutes
- Twelfth Judicial District—Polk
- Thirteenth Judicial District—Klamath
- Fourteenth Judicial District—Josephine
- Fifteenth Judicial District –Curry and Coos
- Sixteenth Judicial District—Douglas
- Seventeenth Judicial District—Lincoln
- Eighteenth Judicial District—Clatsop
- Nineteenth Judicial District—Columbia
- Twentieth Judicial District—Washington
- Twenty-first Judicial District– Benton
- Twenty-second Judicial District –Jefferson and Crook
- Twenty-third Judicial District—Linn
- Twenty-fourth Judicial District—Harney, Grant
- Twenty-fifth Judicial District—Yamhill
- Twenty-sixth Judicial District—Lake
- Twenty-seventh Judicial District—Tillamook
The judges in the Circuit Courts are elected to 6-year terms in a statewide nonpartisan election. To qualify as a judge, the candidate must be all of the following:
- A resident of Oregon
- A citizen of the United States for a least three years before the election
- A lawyer admitted to practice in Oregon.
An Oregon Circuit Court judge must retire at 75, even if the judge reaches the age while in active service. A judge may also be asked to retire if considered so physically unfit or mentally unstable that they cannot carry out their judicial duties.
The Oregon Judicial Case Information Network (OJCIN) offers access to non-confidential case dockets through a paid subscription resource for court case records. Some cases are confidential and protected statutorily; hence, they are not available to the public. Persons with a registered account can sign in with their login details, while other persons may register to access court case dockets. There is a $150 set-up fee for persons registering a new account.
The Judicial Department also provides free online access to limited court case information. To search the online portal, provide the case number or full name of the persons involved. The information provided by the portal are not official records and cannot be used for official purposes, such as for background checks. Official court records can be obtained at the courthouse public terminals or through a subscription to OJCIN OnLine service.
Certified court record copies cost $5 per certificate, plus 25 cents per page. Note that the request will only be processed after payment is made.
The following information should be provided during requests:
- Type of record(s)
- Subject matter
- Estimated date(s) the record was created or received
- Names of people included in the record or who created or received the record
- The number of copies requested
- Specification on what copies should be certified
Also, the requestor should include personal information such as:
- Name and signature
- Telephone number where the requestor can be reached during business hours
- Email address, if available
Interested persons may also fill in the request form or use it as a guide in providing information.
Circuit Courts records may also be obtained at the office of the clerk of court in the Circuit Court that heard the case. Also, each local Circuit Court has a free public access terminal where you can look up case information for most cases. However, note that state and federal law requires courts to protect some information.
For contact information of Oregon Circuit Courts, click on the “Select Your Court” portal on the Oregon court’s website and choose a county.