Oregon Courts Overview
It helps to understand how the Oregon state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The Oregon trial court system consists of Circuit Courts, County Courts, Municipal Courts, Justice Courts, and Tax Court.
The official state trial courts of Oregon are Circuit Courts and The Oregon Tax Court. Municipal Courts, County Courts and Justice Courts are local courts and are not part of the state-funded trial court system. The Oregon Tax Court has exclusive and general jurisdiction over most cases involving Oregon tax laws. Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all types of cases but typically handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts. Local courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil, criminal and traffic cases.
If you prefer, you can start your search by going to Oregon courts by county.
Oregon Circuit CourtsCircuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, and typically handle cases beyond the jurisdiction of other courts.
Circuit Courts may have specialized divisions for certain types of cases, including Juvenile Court, Family Court, Commercial Court, or Drug Court.
Criminal cases heard in Circuit Courts include preliminary hearings, felonies and capital murder. Circuit Courts share jurisdiction over criminal and quasi-criminal cases that are also within the jurisdiction of Justice Courts and Municipal Courts.
Civil cases heard in Circuit Courts include general civil claims without financial limits and some small claims cases. Circuit Courts also handle dissolution of marriage, child custody, disputes over title to land, probate matters, juvenile cases, guardianship, adoption, involuntary commitment, and requests for injunctions.
Some Circuit Courts have a Family Court division that handles most family-related cases, including certain types of criminal cases involving domestic violence.
Circuit Courts in cities without Justice Courts have a Small Claims Court division. If a Justice Court exists, the Circuit Court and Justice Court will decide which court handles small claims cases.
Small Claims Court divisions handle some general civil claims for the recovery of money, damages, specific personal property, penalty or forfeiture, if the claim is for less than $5,000. If the case involves eligible small claims that are less than $750, the case will only be heard in Small Claims Court. For cases that involve claims of more than $750 but less than $5,000, filing in Small Claims Court is optional.
Circuit Courts also have a specialized Commercial Court program that has statewide jurisdiction and is based in the Lane County Circuit Court. The Commercial Court handles certain types of complex business and commercial cases.
Cases handled by the Commercial Court program include internal and external affairs of a business, trade secrets, securities transactions, commercial insurance disputes, electronic technology, intellectual property, commercial real property, construction defects, professional malpractice, product liability, mass torts and environmental litigation.
Circuit Courts exercise jurisdiction over cases that were handled by District Courts before District Courts were abolished.
Oregon County CourtsCounty Court jurisdiction is limited to probate matters and juveniles cases. Some County Courts will only have jurisdiction over probate matters, and some County Courts will only have jurisdiction over juvenile cases. County Courts have limited jurisdiction to grant certain injunctions in pending Circuit Court cases.
Oregon Municipal CourtsMunicipal Courts have limited jurisdiction to handle certain types of criminal, traffic and ordinance violation cases.
Cases typically heard by Municipal Courts include traffic violations, non-felony traffic criminal cases, municipal ordinance violations, vehicle impoundments, as well as some tobacco, liquor and drug violations.
Municipal Courts share jurisdiction with Circuit Courts and Justice Courts over ordinance violations and misdemeanor criminal cases. Justice Courts may lack jurisdiction to handle city ordinance violations if the city does not grant such jurisdiction to a Justice Court.
Oregon Justice CourtsJustice Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types civil, criminal and ordinance violation cases.
Criminal cases heard by Justice Courts include felony preliminary hearings, and some misdemeanors. Whether a Justice Court handles misdemeanors depends on whether it is a court of record. Justice Courts of record have jurisdiction over misdemeanors, but Justice Courts not of record must transfer misdemeanors to Circuit Courts after preliminary hearings.
Justice Courts also handle county ordinance violations, including traffic, boating, fish and wildlife cases. Justice Courts may handle city ordinance violations if an agreement exists with a city.
Civil cases heard by Justice Courts include most general civil claims for less than $5,000, exclusive of costs and fees, such as landlord-tenant cases, recovery of money or damages, recovery of specific personal property, and the recovery of a penalty or forfeitures. If a Justice Court is located in a city with a Circuit Court, the Circuit Court and Justice Court will decide which court handles small claims cases.
Justice Courts do not have jurisdiction over certain types of civil cases, including disputes over title to real estate, false imprisonment, libel, slander and malicious prosecution.
Some Justice Courts will operate as courts of record, but Justice Courts within fifty driving miles of a Circuit Court will generally not be courts of record.
Oregon Tax CourtThe Tax Court has exclusive jurisdiction to handle all questions of law and fact arising under most Oregon tax laws. The Tax Court shares some jurisdiction with Circuit Courts over the priority of property tax liens and the validity of some property transfers when the Department of Revenue has an interest in the property.
Where to Find Court Cases in Oregon
The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of Oregon court.
|Case Type||Court Type|
|Civil||Circuit Courts||County Courts||Municipal Courts||Justice Courts|
|General Civil - Unlimited|
|General Civil - Limited|
|Foreclosures and Liens|
|Real Estate Title and Boundary|
|Landlord / Tenant|
|Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders|
|Administrative Agency Appeals|
|Criminal||Circuit Courts||County Courts||Municipal Courts||Justice Courts|
|Felony Preliminary Hearings|
|Traffic and Infractions|
|Domestic Relations||Circuit Courts||County Courts||Municipal Courts||Justice Courts|
|Child Custody and Visitation|
|Domestic Violence Protection Order|
|Juvenile||Circuit Courts||County Courts||Municipal Courts||Justice Courts|
|Child Abuse and Neglect|
|Termination of Parental Rights|
|Children in Need of Supervision|
|Mental Health||Circuit Courts||County Courts||Municipal Courts||Justice Courts|
|Other Mental Health Cases|
|Probate||Circuit Courts||County Courts||Municipal Courts||Justice Courts|
|Wills & Estates|
|Guardianships and Conservatorships|