What are Oregon Civil Court Records?
Oregon civil court records legal documents that contain information about civil court cases. Information in the records may include dockets, case files, summons, orders, judgments, and any other document created in the process of or relating to a civil court case in Oregon. Civil cases are non-criminal legal actions involving disputes between individuals and organizations. Unlike criminal cases, civil cases do not include offenses against the state, and so do not require state prosecutors. Some examples of civil cases are landlord/tenant disputes, divorce, child custody cases, personal injury, and contract disputes.
Circuit courts, Justice courts, and County courts hear civil cases in Oregon. County courts hear juvenile and probate, conservatorship, adoption, and guardianship cases. Only six Oregon counties have county courts. Justice courts hear cases of small claims that are no more than $7,500. Circuit courts are state trial courts and have general jurisdiction. Circuit Court Clerks or Trial Court Administrators are tasked with maintaining court records. Civil court records can be obtained at the courthouse, online through the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) Records Search tool, or through third-party websites such as OregonCourtRecords.Us.
Are Oregon Civil Court Records Public Records In Oregon?
The Public Records Law in Oregon guarantees access to public records, stating that every person has a right to inspect or copy public records. However, access to public records is not absolute, as some are exempted from open access under the Public Records Law. Under Oregon's laws, there are conditional exemptions and total exemptions from public access. Records under conditional, or limited, exemption are not made public except when public interest demands disclosure. Examples of records conditionally exempted from public access include:
- Trade secrets
- Test questions
- Real estate appraisals
According to ORS 192.355, personal and any other information for which disclosure or public access would constitute an invasion of privacy are exempted from the Public Records Law. Records sealed by court order, or records designated confidential by any other state or federal laws are exempt from public access.
Types of Cases in Oregon Civil Court
Civil court cases are heard by different courts in Oregon, depending on the type of claim or the amount involved. Generally, civil court cases involve disputes between individuals and organizations and family disputes. Examples of cases heard in Oregon civil courts are:
- Small claims
- Landlord/tenant disputes
- Consumer complaints
- Personal injury
- Child support
- Non-traffic violations
- Workplace accidents
What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases?
Criminal cases involve violations of state laws or criminal code. Generally, criminal offenses are classified into felonies and misdemeanors. In Oregon, felonies can be further classified according to severity into classes A, B, C, and Unclassified (ORS 164.535). Unclassified felonies are the most severe offenses in Oregon, typically violent offenses against the person. Class C felonies are the least severe offenses in the felony class. All felony crimes are punishable by imprisonment, fines, or both imprisonment and fines.
Misdemeanors are less serious offenses than felonies but are still punishable by jail time and fines. The classes of misdemeanors in Oregon are A, B, C, and Unclassified (ORS 164.555). While felony crimes are punishable by incarceration in state prison, misdemeanors are punishable by imprisonment in county jail. Criminal cases are typically initiated by law enforcement or other government agencies. In a criminal case trial, the prosecuting attorney is usually the state's attorney.
Civil cases are non-criminal cases that involve disputes between individuals or organizations. Civil cases do not include offenses against the state and are typically introduced by individuals or organizations. Instead of a trial or hearing, civil cases can be resolved through mediation or arbitration.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records In Oregon?
The first step in finding copies of Oregon Civil Court records is determining where the document is kept. Records Custodians maintain civil court records in the court where the case was heard. Typically, civil court cases are filed in the circuit court in the county where the complainant or respondent lives or where the alleged dispute happened.
After the requestor determines the right location, such a person may visit the Trial Court Administrator's office at the court to make a request. Interested persons may submit applications for copies in person or by mail. Public records request forms are also available on the Oregon Secretary of State website. Requestors can inspect physical civil court records at no charge at the court counter; however, applicable fees will be charged to make copies of civil court records. The cost per page is $0.25 and $5 for certified copies. According to ORS 192.345, the fee cannot exceed $25. If the fee for copying public records exceeds $25, record custodians may not copy requested documents until the requestor has been notified of and has agreed to the price. Court business hours and response timelines may vary from one county to another. Interested persons can also mail in requests for public records.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?
Some courts, such as Umatilla and Morrow County Circuit court and Union County Circuit Court, offer digitized records for viewing on the courthouse's kiosk computers. Interested persons may also request public civil court records by email. Instructions for email requests are listed on each court's website. Additionally, some courts provide online forms for records requests. An example is the Washington County Circuit Court's online web form. Online options available for each court are specified on the court's website.
The Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) provides free access to statewide circuit court information through its Online Records Search tool. Registration is not required to use the application; however, only limited case information is offered without registering. Search criteria include:
- Record number
- Case number
- Warrant number
- Citation number
- Attorney name/bar number
- Business name
- Case cross-reference number
- Party name
- Judicial officer
- Case type
- Date filed
- Case status
- Booking number
- FBI number
The Oregon Judicial Case Information Network (OJCIN OnLine) provides access to the Oregon eCase Information Network, which contains court case information from circuit courts statewide. Protected and confidential records are not available on OJCIN OnLine. Information about mental health cases, violence against women, and juvenile delinquency are not available on the website. OJCIN OnLine is a subscription-based service, and a setup fee of $150 is required.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How to Get Civil Court Records Removed
Under ORS 192.311, civil court records are public records and are subject to the Public Records Law. Civil court records cannot be removed or set aside, as expungement only applies to criminal case records. However, all or parts of a civil court record may be sealed or designated as confidential. For example, adoption records and juvenile records are confidential.
How to Seal Civil Court Records in Oregon?
Persons interested in sealing a civil court record may file a motion with the court where the case was heard. The court may grant the motion at its discretion if it establishes a valid reason.
By law, some civil court records are confidential and are not accessible to the public. Examples of these records are adoption records and juvenile records. Access to sealed records is restricted to:
- Persons named on the record
- All involved attorneys or other designated representatives
- Persons with a subpoena or court order
- Certain law enforcement agencies