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How to Find Oregon Circuit Court Documents

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Sincere apologies, but there is no way to make this a short blog post for those new to this task, so bear with me.

This blog post will cover these topics:

I) Online Court Documents: A Brief Primer

II) How to Find Oregon Circuit Court Documents

III) To Avoid Surprises Or Disappointment …

IV) Commercial Databases and Document Services

V) e-Court in our Future

** This is NOT a guide to locating Oregon federal, local, municipal, appellate, or county justice court records! **

I) ONLINE COURT DOCUMENTS: A BRIEF PRIMER

One day soon, Oregon litigants will have e-Court for most Oregon state court documents (e.g. complaints, motions, orders, briefs, petitions for review, etc.), but in the meantime, and for Circuit Court documents that won’t be in the e-Court database, I’ve compiled a few research tips:

A) If you don’t live near the courthouse, e.g. if you need court documents from another county, allow plenty of time to plan, even weeks ahead – or plan to make that 400-mile round-trip to get the documents you need. Or, prepare to pay someone or a database for the documents.

B) Do not confuse an e-Court database with a legal research database. Oregon’s e-Court database is a state court document filing service, not unlike PACER, which is a federal court document filing service. (A legal research database, where you would search for the law., is something else entirely. Some of the same companies that own legal research databases also own court documents and other public records databases.)

C) Court documents from other states: Each state has its own e-court document filing system, under construction, fully operational, county by county, free or fee-based, etc. Check the court’s website for information.

D) Journalists, bloggers, and other researchers: There are lots of great courthouse-news reporting guides for journalists. Check in the legal jurisdiction you will be reporting on for specific guides. You can run a search with these words, journalists guides courts, and also check out these: Journalists Toolbox and the Citizen Media Law Project’s Legal Guides.

II) HOW TO FIND OREGON CIRCUIT COURT DOCUMENTS

A) IMPORTANT REMINDERS:

** This is NOT a guide to locating federal, local, municipal, appellate, or county justice court records!

1) Search and copy procedures vary from county to county – and they change, so call ahead.

2) You usually need to pre-pay for copies – and do not be surprised if you are told you can send a blank check. (We recommend against it.)

3) Allow plenty of time. The process can take a week or more, from first inquiry to receipt of the documents.

4) Online commercial databases are very expensive. A single document can cost over $100, and if you need several documents …. There will be more competition in this type of business in the future, but for now, be prepared to pay.

III) TO AVOID SURPRISES OR DISAPPOINTMENT ...

A) YOU WILL NEED TO KNOW:

1) Name of County Circuit Court:
2) Court phone number(s):

B) YOU MAY WANT TO ASK THE COURT CLERK THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:

1) Quick Checklist:

  • How, where, when to get documents:
  • Cost per page/document:
  • Type of payment required:
  • Turnaround time:
  • Delivery method:

2) Detailed Checklist:

  • Are the documents you need at the Courthouse? If not, ask where they are and how much time will it take to retrieve them from the off-site location.
  • If you can order the documents over the phone:
  • Do you need to submit a written request for the documents, can you fax or email the document request to the Courthouse? (Get fax number or email address.)
  • How long will it take for them to tell you how much money you need to send before they copy?
  • Will the Courthouse scan and email copies or only photocopy and mail copies?
  • What are per-page or per-document photocopy (or scanning, PDF, etc.) fees?
  • What are your payment options (cash, debit, credit, PayPal, check, other)?
  • Once you have submitted payment, how long will it take to get the documents? (This can be minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months with some off-site storage repositories.)

3) If you plan to order the documents in-person at the Courthouse:

  • What are their hours of service?
  • Will the court staff photocopy or scan while you wait or tell you to come back – when? An hour, a day, a week?
  • What are per-page or per-document photocopy (or scanning, PDF, etc.) fees?
  • What are your payment options (cash, debit, credit, PayPal, check, other?
  • How long will it take to get the documents? (This can be minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months with some off-site storage repositories.)

IV) COMMERCIAL DATABASES AND DOCUMENT SERVICES

A)  COMMERCIAL COURT RECORDS DATABASES

  • Are the documents you need in the database vendor’s collection?
  • How much does it cost to search, to download, and to print?
  • What personal & financial information will you need to provide to the vendor in order to search the database?

B) COURT DOCUMENT RETRIEVAL SERVICES

  • Are the documents you need in the company’s service area?
  • Does the price quoted include search, copy, and delivery?
  • How long will it take to get your documents?
  • What personal & financial information will you need to provide the company in order to do business with them?

V) E-COURT IN OUR FUTURE

A) Check OJD e-Court webpages for updates to e-Court services.

B) The OJD Help Desk provides user support for the OECI product as well as continuing to support OJIN Online.

C) Send an email to ETSDHelp@ojd.state.or.us. Please include phone contact information and your username.

D) Phone the OJD Help Desk at 503-986-5582 or1-800-922-7391