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San Diego Judicial Records

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JUDICIAL OFFICES

JUSTICE COURT
The state constitution of 1849 authorized the formation of the justice courts. Each judicial township was limited to two elected justices of the peace, their jurisdiction limited to the township from which they were elected, except in cases which fell within the boundaries of a township which did not have a justice.

The state statutes of 1850 limited the civil jurisdiction of the justice courts to cases involving $200 or less for recovery of contract money, damages, or recovery of specific property whose ownership was in dispute. In addition, the justice courts could handle foreclosure on mortgages of personal property. The state statutes of 1851 defined the criminal jurisdiction of the courts in cases of petit larceny, assault and battery, disturbing the peace, and all misdemeanors that did not exceed $500 in fines or three months imprisonment.

These limitations were changed periodically through the years. The monetary limits for civil cases increased to $500 in 1851 and $1000 in 1870. The limits for criminal cases also increased to $1000 for fines and one year imprisonment in 1871.

COUNTY COURT
The Constitution of 1849 established a county court for each county of the state. Each court was to be presided over by one judge elected by voters for four years. Originally the court had limited jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases not assumed by other courts, and appellate jurisdiction over inferior courts such as the Justice Court. In 1863 the County Court assumed the criminal jurisdiction of the Court of Sessions. With the creation of the Superior Court in 1879 the County Court was eliminated.

COURT OF SESSIONS
Established in each county by the state constitution of 1849, the Court of Sessions was presided over by the County Judge and two justices of the peace. Basically a criminal court, the jurisdiction of the Court of Sessions included cases of assault and battery, breach of the peace, riot, petty larceny, and misdemeanors punishable by fines not exceeding $500 or imprisonment of three months. Jurisdiction was extended in 1851 to include indictments provided by the Grand Jury which functioned as a commission of the court. The court also had appellate jurisdiction over inferior courts such as the justice court. The Court of Sessions was abolished in 1863 and its criminal jurisdiction transferred to the County Court.

DISTRICT COURT
Established in each county by the California constitution of 1849, the District Court acted as the highest local court in the state (over the justice, county, and probate courts, and Court of Sessions). The court was presided over by a judge elected by the county for terms of six years. The District Court held original jurisdiction in all cases of law and equity and civil cases where the disputed amount exceeded $200. In addition, it had jurisdiction over all criminal cases, and all cases of real property. In 1863, jurisdiction was extended over cases involving the legality of any tax, impost, assessment, toll, or municipal fine.

The Court system replaced the district courts in 1879.

GRAND JURY
The Grand Jury is a nineteen member judicial body that functions as an inquisitional arm of the Superior Court. It was originally established by the state constitution of 1849 and charged with the duty of inquiring into public offenses committed within the county. The Grand Jury functioned as a commission of the Court of Sessions until the court was abolished in 1863.

When warranted by evidence, the Grand Jury will indict suspects for trial. It is also authorized to conduct annual audits of the records of all county offices and to indict public officials suspected of misconduct or malfeasance in office.

MUNICIPAL COURT
The municipal court system is an outgrowth of the justice courts, having jurisdiction within municipalities that justice courts had within townships. Authorized by state statute in 1925, municipal courts replaced the justice courts in the City of San Diego in 1937. Other areas of the county made the change from justice to municipal in later years.

The municipal courts have original jurisdiction in civil cases involving damages not exceeding specific levels-currently $5,000 or less. They may also hold preliminary hearings in felony cases. 

PROBATE COURT
Probate Court was originally established by the California State Constitution of 1849 specifically for the purpose of hearing cases pertaining to title to estates. It became part of the Superior Court in 1880, but retained its original jurisdiction.

SUPERIOR COURT
The Superior Court was established by the California constitution of 1879, replacing the County and District courts in each county. Judges were elected locally to terms of six years. Record keeping of the court was assigned to the County Clerk as ex-officio clerk.
The Superior Court has original jurisdiction over all felonies, civil actions which exceed $15,000 in damages, cases involving real property title and possession, probate proceedings, divorce, conservatorship, mental health, and juvenile cases. The court also has appellate jurisdiction over the municipal courts.


JUDICIAL RECORDS AVAILABLE IN SAN DIEGO HISTORY RESEARCH LIBRARY

PR3.1 Superior Court Register of Actions       
1880-1912, 1929-1945
167 vols. + 1 index vol.
Register of actions heard in Superior Court. Arranged numerically by case number.

PR3.10 Grand Jury Minutes       
1897-1898, 1908-1909, 1921-1923
5 vols.
Minutes of the Grand Jury. Arranged chronologically by date of meeting.

PR3.11 General Register of Superior Court
1891-1902
2 vols. 

PR3.12 Superior Court Case Notes
1911-1917
1 vol.

PR3.13 Subpoenas and Summons Served       
1896-1899, 1907-1919
29 vols.
Record of subpoenas. Arranged chronologically.

PR3.14 Affidavits of Registration       
1918-1923
4 vols.
Record of affidavits. Arranged chronologically and indexed by name.

PR3.15 Register of Foreign Actions       
1911-1915
2 vols.
Register of actions heard in other counties and states. Arranged chronologically.

PR3.16 Judgments, Decrees Foreclosing School Lands       
1896-1904
2 vols.
Foreclosure decrees issued for non-payment of principal and interest on state school lands. Arranged chronologically.

PR3.17  Ledger      
1913-1914
1 vol.
Expenses ledger for plaintiffs and defendants. Arranged chronologically.

PR3.18 Ledgers for Court Evidence
1886-1915
1 box (4 vols.) 

PR3.19 Register of Actions Tax Suits, District Court       
1871-1876
2 vols.
Register of actions for tax suits in District Court. Most cases involve collection of delinquent taxes. Arranged chronologically by court date.

PR3.2  Superior Court Minutes and Orders, Civil and Criminal        
1880-1942
155 vols.
Official minutes of proceedings in Superior Court. Arranged chronologically by date of action.

PR3.20 Minute Book,         
1878-1879
1 vol. (in box with 3.21)
Minutes of the court. Arranged chronologically by court date.

PR3.21 County Court Testimony       
1872
1 vol. (in box with 3.20)
Transcripts of testimony in criminal cases: People v. Fenwick and People v. Squire.

PR3.22 Superior Court Draft Minutes       
1880-1890
13 vols.
Draft minutes of the Superior Court. Some are written in shorthand. Arranged chronologically.

PR3.23 County Deputies Record of Assignments
1914-1917
2 vols. (in box with 3.24, 3.25)

PR3.24 Index to Superior Court      
1879-1887
1 vol. (in box with 3.23, 3.25)
Index to case files shows names of plaintiffs and case number (cases 1-1508). Arranged alphabetically by name of plaintiff.

PR3.25 Clerk’s Fee Book, District Court       
1856-1860
1 vol. (in box with 3.23, 3.24)
Record of fees paid in court cases. Arranged chronologically by court date.

PR3.26 Dockets-Civil and Criminal, Justice Court       
1866-1919
39 vols.
General dockets collection of San Diego County Justice Courts. Volumes are arranged alphabetically by name of judicial district and chronologically thereunder by court date.

PR3.27 City Police Docket       
1874-1885
1 vol.
Docket of San Diego judicial township. Arranged chronologically by court date.

PR3.28 General Fee Book      
1915-1919, 1931-1946
4 vols.
Fee books for judicial townships of Escondido, Lemon Grove, Mission, and Otay, show fines paid to County Treasurer. Entries include names of cases, amounts of fees, and dates.

PR3.29 Criminal Log Book
1974-1975
1 vol. 

PR3.29+ Criminal Justice Court of Escondido
1923-1932
1 vol.

PR3.3 Judgments, Civil, Superior Court       
1886-1947
113 vols.
Arranged chronologically by date of judgment and indexed (vols. 19-119) by name of plaintiff.

PR3.30 Justice Court Record of Expenses        
1895-1903
1 vol.
Ledger of court lists cost for mileage, subpoenas, and attendance on juries.

PR3.31 San Diego List of Justices and Constables
1891-1894
1 vol. (in box with 3.32, 3.33, 3.34, 3.35) 

PR3.32 Rough Register of Actions, San Diego County Superior Court
1907-1913
1 vol. (in box with 3.31, 3.33, 3.34, 3.35) 

PR3.33 Superior Court Transcript of People v. Melendez
1898
1 vol. (in box with 3.31, 3.32, 3.34, 3.35) 

PR3.34 Ledger Accounts, Justice Jennings       
1919
1 vol. (in box with 3.31, 3.32. 3.33, 3.35)
Ledger book of San Diego Justice L. D. Jennings, lists all court costs. Arranged chronologically.

PR3.35 Court Glossary
1 vol. (in box with 3.31, 3.32. 3.33, 3.34)

PR3.353 Index to Probate Court Register of Actions       
1850-1879
1 vol.
Index to Register of Actions for Probate Court prior to its incorporation into the Superior Court System. Index contains name of estate, the page number in the Register of Actions and the court department. Arranged alphabetically by name of estate.

PRM3.36 Superior Court, Index to Suits       
1880-1951
Microfilm / 19 reels

PRM3.360 Superior Court, Criminal  Dockets
1873-1937
Microfilm / 3 rolls

PRM3.361 Superior Court, Civil Dockets
1888-1937
Microfilm / 1 roll 

PRM3.362 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Homeland Township, Small Claim, Civil and Criminal Dockets
1848-1957
Microfilm / 1 roll

PRM3.363 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Small Claims Court: Index to Suits
1931-1954
Microfilm / 2 rolls

PRM3.364 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Civil Minute Books
1961-1973
Microfilm / 62 rolls:
-1961-1969, 32 rolls;
-1965-1970, 14 rolls;
-1970-1973, 16 rolls.

PRM3.365 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Civil Register of Actions
1869-1972
Microfilm / 90 rolls:
-1869-1972, 7 rolls;
-1937-1955, 37 rolls;
-1956-1959, 24 rolls;
-1963-1969, 22 rolls.

PRM3.366 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Small Claims Dockets
1921-1971
Microfilm / 94 rolls:
-1921-1964, 55 rolls;
-1958-1960, 11 rolls;
-1961, 7 rolls;
-1964-1971, 21 rolls.

PRM3.367 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Index, Small Claims
1931-1969
Microfilm / 16 rolls:
-1931-1967, 13 rolls;
-1968-1969, 3 rolls.

PRM3.368 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Traffic Complaints, T-Series
1965-1969
Microfilm / 95 rolls:
-1965-1969, 38 rolls;
-1966-1969, 41 rolls;
-1968-1969, 16 rolls. 

PR3.37 Justice Court, Case Files      
1870-1918
10 boxes + 1 vol. (1883-1886)
Papers contained in the files may include: complaint, subpoena, affidavits of witnesses, receipts, arrest warrants, verdict, and testimony. Arranged alphabetically by name of township and chronologically there under by court date.

PRM3.371 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Index, Civil
1952-1969
Microfilm / 16 rolls:
-1952-1966, 12 rolls;
-1968-1969, 4 rolls.

PRM3.372 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Index, Traffic Records
1964-1970
Microfilm / 39 rolls:
-1964, 3 rolls;
-1965-1966, 9 rolls;
-1967, 3 rolls;
-1961-1972, 24 rolls.

PRM3.374 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Register of Actions, Traffic
1960
Microfilm / 4 rolls 

PRM3.375 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Civil Judgements Books
1974-1977
Microfilm / 10 rolls
1974-1976, 2 rolls;
1974-1977, 8 rolls;

PRM3.376 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Civil Docket
1888-1951
Microfilm / 24 rolls:
-1888-1937, 22 rolls;
-1931-1951, 2 rolls.

PRM3.377 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Traffic Records
1960-1964
Microfilm / 126 rolls:
-1960-1964, 95 rolls;
-1961-1964, 9 rolls;
-1962-1964, 22 rolls. 

PRM3.378 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District, Traffic Complaints
1969-1970
Microfilm / 1 roll 

PRM3.379 Municipal Court, San Diego Judicial District,  Judgment  Minute Books
1941-1959
Microfilm / 33 rolls:
-1941-1959, 24 rolls;
-1952-1959, 9 rolls.

PR3.38 District Court, Case Files-Civil and Criminal       
1850-1880
56 boxes
Papers contained in typical case files include: complaints, subpoenas, affidavits of witnesses, receipts, arrest warrants, testimony, verdicts, and other documents.

PR3.381 Probate Minutes, Docket A       
1850-1852
1 vol.
Minutes of the Probate Court for Docket A. Arranged chronologically.

PR3.382 Journal of the District Court       
1861-1870
1 vol.
Arranged chronologically by the date of court proceedings.

PR3.383 Index to Justice’s Journal       
1850-1869
1 vol.
Handwritten (not extant)

PR3.384 District Court, Minutes and Judgements       
1872-1874
1 vol.
Arranged chronologically by the date of court proceedings.

PR3.385 District Court, Register of Actions       
1876-1881
2 vols.
Arranged chronologically. A plaintiff index is included in the front of the volume.

PR3.39 Superior Court Case Files, Civil and Criminal       
1879-1921
480 boxes
Case files contain the official documents of the court including complaints, subpoenas, arrest warrants, transcripts of testimony, jury verdicts, court actions, and judgments.

PR3.393 Declarations of Intention       
1906-1941
7 vols.
Declarations of Intent are original sworn statements, taken under oath in the Superior Court, of individuals to become United States citizens.

PR3.397 San Diego City Municipal Court Minute Books
1940-1953
8 vols.

PR3.398 San Diego City Municipal Court Law and Motion
1941-1953
3 vols. 

PR3.399 Docket Criminal Minute Book
1952-1964
65 vols.
Municipal Court

PR3.4 Probate Orders and Decrees       
1880-1882, 1886-1940
128 vols.
Arranged chronologically by court date and indexed by name of estate.

PR3.40 Grand Jury Reports      
1905-1990
5 boxes
Record contains official transcripts of preliminary and final reports of investigations conducted in San Diego County, including supplemental reports and audits of county departments.
Arranged chronologically by year.

PR3.41 Juror Lists       
1904-1928
4 boxes
Collection lists names and addresses of people from among whom juries will be selected (Grand Jury or trial jurors). Files contain lists from County Clerk and venires from County Sheriff, instructions to jurors from Superior Court judges, and letters to the courts asking to be excused from jury duty. Arranged chronologically by year.

PR3.42 Abstracts of Judgements, Justice Court      
1907-1929
1 box

PR3.43 Bail Bonds       
1900-1928
3 boxes
Bail bonds for felony and misdemeanor cases include juvenile court defendant undertakings, probation proceeding bonds, appeal bonds, peace bonds, and applications for writs of habeas corpus. Arranged chronologically.

PR3.44 Reporter’s Transcripts      
1951-1956
2 boxes
Reporter’s transcripts include testimony and depositions in referrals to Youth Authority, eminent domain proceedings, recovery of property, divorce, and other cases. Arranged chronologically.

PR3.45 Jail Register and Record of Arrests       
1912-1928
10 vols
Record of arrests made in San Diego township.

PR3.46 Bailiff’s Cash Book       
1910-1915
1 vol.
Cash book is a register of arrests made in San Diego township.

PR3.47 Register of Actions, County Court       
1928-1937
11 vols.
Register of San Diego township shows.

PR3.48 Register of Criminal Complaints, District Court         
1931-1938
2 vols.
District Court Register of San Diego township.

PR3.49 Justice Court Minute Books (Docket Books)       
1885-1886, 1901-1918
6 vols.
Minutes of San Diego Justice Court.

PR3.5 Record of Wills       
1880-1927
17 vols.
Record of wills probated in San Diego.

PR3.50 Criminal Dockets, Justice Court      
1913-1914, 1920-1922
2 vols.
Dockets for San Diego Justice Court.

PR3.51 Minute Books, Municipal Court        
1937-1949
6 vols.
Minute books for San Diego Municipal Court.

PR3.52 Probate Court Case Files (Red)      
1850-1908
8 boxes
Probate Cases initiated before 1880.

PR3.52+ Supreme Court Briefs and Transcripts
1872-1934
6 boxes

PR3.53 Probate Case Files, Superior Court       
1890-1937
146 boxes

PR3.531 Index to Probate Court        
1850-1964
7 vols.
Arranged alphabetically by name of estate. Early cases, from before the incorporation of the Probate Court into the Superior Court in 1879, are written in red.

PR3.532 Probate Court  Record       
1865-1879
5 vols.
Record is the minutes of the Probate Court.

PR3.533 Probate Case Files, Superior Court (Additional)
13 boxes

PR3.534 Probate Court, Clerk’s Fee Book       
1866-1871
1 vol. (in box with 2.98, 2.99, 2.931)
Register of County Clerk as ex-officio Clerk of Probate Court.

PR3.54 Case Files-Civil and Criminal, Court of Sessions      
1850-1860
3 boxes

PR3. 544 Court of Sessions, 17th District Court Index
1894
1 vol.

PR3.55 Municipal Court, City of San Diego, Criminal Complaints
1938-1963
9 vols. 

PR3.55+ Case Files-Civil and Criminal, County Court      
1850-1880
7 boxes

PR3.551 Index to County Court       
1850-1879
1 vol.
Index to Judgments and Minutes for cases of the County Court.

PR3.552 Clerk’s Fee Book, County Court      
1878-1879
1 vol.
Record of fees paid in County Court cases.

PR3.553 Register of Actions, County Court       
1860-1870
1 vol.

PR3.56 Register of Actions, Small Claims       
1952-1955
1 vol.
Register of small claims actions in Oceanside Municipal Court.

PR3.56+ City of San Diego, Record of Fines
1946-1959
2 vols. 

PR3.561 Encinitas Criminal Docket
1949-1962
7 vols. 

PR3.562 Justice Court of Escondido Township
1895-1953
9 vols. 

PR3.563 Escondido Township Civil Court
1942-1967
7 vols. 

PR3.564 National Township Traffic
1941-1951
8 vols.

PR3.565 Homeland Township Traffic Docket
1948-1953
1 vol.

PR3.566 Homeland Township Criminal Docket
1955-1957
1 vol.

PR3.567 South Bay Criminal Register
1957-1958
1 vol.

PR3.568 City of Oceanside Criminal Court Docket
1925-1952
40 vols. 

PR3.569 Oceanside Township Civil Docket
1920-1951
8 vols. 

PR3.570 Escondido City Court Docket
1941-1951
6 vol. 

PR3.57 San Diego County, Ordinances and Traffic Violations
1930-1931
1 vol. 

PR3.57+ Small Claims Index       
1952-1964
2 vols.
Index to small claim actions in Oceanside Municipal Court.

PR3.571 Fallbrook Civil Docket
1931-1976
2 vols. 

PR3.572 Fallbrook Criminal Docket
1972-1974
1 vol.

PR3.577 Small Claims Log Book
1975-1976
1 vol.

PR3.58 Small Claims Dockets       
Dockets of Encinitas, Escondido, Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Diego and Vista.
Encinitas: 7 vols.
Escondido: 17 vols.
Fallbrook: 20 vols. 1932-1975.
Oceanside: 10 vols.
San Diego : 1 vol.
Vista: 10 vols. 1931-1959.

PR3.59 Justice Court Ledger       
1932-1938
2 vols.
Ledger of fines and fees received by the Oceanside Justice Court.

PR3.6 Superior Court Trial Calendar       
1897-1925
10 vols.

PR3.60 Register of Surety Bonds        
1952-1975
5 vols.
Bond register for Oceanside.

PR3.61 Criminal Dockets
1952-1962
27 vols.
Dockets of Oceanside Municipal Court.

PR3.62 Cash Book, Vista Township       
1931-1938
1 vol.

PR3.621 Vista Township Civil Docket
1931-1938
1 vol.

PR3.622 Vista Township Criminal Docket
1931-1959
26 vols. 

PR3.623 Oceanside City Civil and Criminal Docket
1930-1932
1 vol. 

PR3.63 Criminal Index, Oceanside       
1952-1958
1 vol.
Index to defendants arraigned in Oceanside Municipal Court.

PR3.633 Oceanside Municipal Court Traffic Index
1952-1957
2 vols.

PR3.634 Oceanside Township Traffic Docket
1932-1939
6 vols. 

PR3.635 Oceanside City Criminal Court
1928-1929
1 vol.

PR3.636 Oceanside City Civil Court
1927-1928
1 vol.

PR3.64 Record of Violation of Motor Vehicle Law       
1931-1932
1 vol.
Record of persons charged with violation of motor vehicle laws in Oceanside township.

PR3.66 Superior Court Cases – Transfers to San Diego
2 boxes
Transfer of cases from Los Angeles, Imperial County, Orange County, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Tulare County.

PR3.67 Los Angeles Superior Court, San Diego Cases
1902-1953
1 box

PR3.68 Traffic Log Book
1965-1975
5 vols. 

PR3.69 Motor Vehicle Dockets      
Record of motor vehicle law violations in the judicial townships of Encinitas, Escondido, and Oceanside.
Encinitas: 14 vols. 1932-1962.
Escondido: 8 vols. 1938-1959.
Oceanside: 28 vols.                                                 

PR3.7 Superior Court Motion Calendar        
1898-1900
2 vols.

PR3.71 Index to Transcript of Judgements       
1864-1931
2 vols.
Index to transcripts of judgments awarded in small claims, Justice and Superior Courts.

PR3.711 Transcripts of Judgments
1890-1931
9 vols.

PR3.8 Probate Calendar       
1908, 1916-1921
8 vols.

PR3.9 Superior Court Minutes
1888-1901
9 vols. 

PR3.91 Superior Court, Order of Commitment       
1897-1904
1 vol.
Record of the Superior Court for the commitment of minors to reform schools and other institutions. Arranged chronologically by date of court hearing.

PR3.99 Appeals to California District and Supreme Court
1885-1940
6 boxes


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