How Does The Oregon County Court Work? |
Oregon Court Records

How Do the Oregon County Courts Work?

Oregon County Courts are courts with limited jurisdiction over probate and juvenile cases. All Oregon counties formerly had one County Court each. However, there are currently only six counties with County Courts in the state, including Gilliam, Sherman, Wheeler, Grant, Harney, and Malheur Counties. Of the six counties, Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler have juvenile and probate jurisdictions, while Grant, Harney, and Malheur have only probate jurisdictions.

The Oregon County Courts with probate and juvenile jurisdictions set policies and manage the county’s business affairs. This includes allocating and levying taxes, and overseeing the coordination and budgeting of all county programs. These courts are referred to as “County Courts” to reflect the historical obligations of the office. The County Court judge is the chairman of the Board and is primarily charged with non-judicial administrative responsibilities. Other responsibilities of the county judge include:

  • Handling probate and juvenile court matters 
  • Preparing and monitoring the budget
  • Liaison assignments to regional, local, and state boards
  • Personnel administration
  • Advocating for the county at the state legislature
  • Approval of county laws, ordinances, resolutions, and court orders
  • Administration of all non-elected departments, and representing the county in various forums. 
  • Addressing day-to-day concerns of local citizens

The County Courts with only probate jurisdiction are not referred to as courts of law. This is because they do not preside over trials, sentence defendants, or have jurisdiction over the legal community. The judge only has the authority to preside over probate matters and conduct weddings.

The County Court consists of a County Judge and two Commissioners. In accordance with Oregon Revised Statute 204, the qualifications for county judges and commissioners are as follows:

  • Must be a resident of the county for at least one year before the election
  • Must be a resident of the United States
  • Must be 18 years old or older
  • Must be a registered voter

An Oregon county judge has a term of six years, while a commissioner’s terms of office four years. Oregon county judges are also not required to be members of the bar, neither do they need to possess any special certifications. County judges are elected in a nonpartisan election while the Commissioners are elected in a partisan election. The judges must compulsorily retire at 75 even if they are still in active service when they reach the age. A judge may also be asked to retire if considered physically unfit or mentally unstable, especially if that would render them incapable of carrying out their judicial duties.

To find Oregon County Court records, query the court clerk in the county where the case originated. The requests may be submitted by email, US mail, fax, or through the customer service window at the County Courts that have this facility. For instance, both Grant and Harney Counties have customer service windows at their respective courthouses. Interested persons may visit these customer service windows in person to obtain copies of County Court records. 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

Also, the requestor’s personal information may be required if the response is to be delivered by mail. The required information includes:

  • Name and signature
  • Address
  • Telephone number where the requestor may be reached during business hours
  • Email address, if available

Note that the fees for electronic, emailed, and hard copies are not the same. Also, the fees for regular, certified, and exemplified copies vary. Requestors are advised to confirm current fees at the courthouse. 

Adoption and juvenile cases are considered confidential, and access to these records is restricted. Persons interested in obtaining copies from an adoption case may get more information from the following documents:

  • Notice to Birth Parents
  • Request for Court Adoption Records
  • Motion for Order Allowing Inspection and Copying of Sealed Adoption Records; and Affidavit
  • Order Regarding Motion to Inspect and Copy Sealed Adoption Records

The contact information of the county courts in Oregon is as follows:

Gilliam County

Gilliam County Court

221 South Oregon Street, PO Box 427, Condon, OR 97823

Phone: (541) 384–3303

Fax: (541) 384–3304

Grant County

Grant County Court

201 South Humboldt Street, 280, Canyon City, OR 97820

Phone: (541) 575–0059

Fax: (541) 575–2248

Harney County

Harney County Court

450 North Buena Vista, 5, Burns, OR 97720

Phone: (541) 573–6356

Fax: (541) 573–8387

Malheur County

Malheur County Court

251 B Street West, Suite 5, Vale, OR 97918

Phone: (541) 473–5124

Fax: (541) 473–5168

Sherman County

Sherman County Court

500 Court Street, PO Box 365, Moro, OR 97039

Phone: (541) 565–3606

Fax: (541) 565–3771

Wheeler County

Wheeler County Court

401 4th Street, PO Box 447, Fossil, OR 97830

Phone: (541) 763–2912

Typically, the working hours of most County Courts are from Monday to Friday, between 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Oregon County Court