Published on:

Are You Being Sued? How to find out if a Lawsuit has been Filed (in Oregon and beyond)

By

Suppose you want to find out what lawsuits a business or an individual has filed in Oregon against another business, a customer, or an individual. How and where do you look that up?

1) Here in the U.S., if you are searching state court records (rather than federal court records), you will generally look to a courthouse docket, database, or other lists of “lawsuits filed.” These lists will sometimes be kept in statewide databases, but not always. For example, when the court is local, not statewide, it is possible that the only listing of parties sued, or being sued, will be held by the Court – and they may still be in print only.

2) NOT ALL COURT RECORDS ARE ONLINE. In fact, not all ANYTHING is online. (Sigh – except maybe those documents “born digital.”) And even if the court records are stored in a digital database, this does not mean access to it is free or available to everyone.

3) When you visit a courthouse to look for court records and documents, you will usually be directed to a Clerk’s office, a Calendaring office, or sometimes a File Room. This will depend on local practice so just ask someone when you enter the Courthouse.

4) The usual place to check first and always is on OJIN, a database of Oregon state courts. You can search that database for no charge at the County Courthouse. Most Circuit Courthouses have their public OJIN terminals set for searching their specific county dockets, but they also usually have instruction for how to search statewide.

5) In addition to Oregon Circuit Courts, there are also county Justice Courts and Municipal Courts.

a) Oregon Bluebook entries on Justice Courts and Municipal Courts
b) See also, Oregon Justices of the Peace Association (OJPA) website

These local courts can hear a variety of cases, but they are not generally courts of record, are governed by local and state law and procedures, have limited rights of appeal, and may or may not be subject to oversight by the Oregon Commission on Judicial Fitness and Discipline.

For example, Washington County has a Justice Court and many of its cities have municipal courts. (I honestly don’t know if an unincorporated city can have a municipal court – now there’s a question to ask a law librarian!)

You can contact these courts directly to find out about their dockets (i.e. the index of cases filed, by case number or party name, including a list of the documents files in each case).

6) Some Oregon County Law Libraries have the OJIN database in-house, but many do not, for a number of reasons such as cost, lack of staff or expertise needed to assist searchers, but also because an OJIN search is often followed by a desire to see a case file and you need to be in the Courthouse to get case files.