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Citation Information by Text Message

June 29th, 2016 · No Comments

Just a quick update on a new way courts are taking advantage of technology. One of the first and most widely used is online payment of traffic and parking tickets, which we covered here, here, and here. Next up were the ubiquitous red light camera tickets, which can also be paid online.

Since some people don’t want to pay their tickets without a fight, some courts allow tickets to be contested online without having to show up in court. We’ve even seen examples of courts allowing some hearings to be held by telephone or online instead of in the courtroom

We’ve also discovered some apps – here and here – that allow you to look up case information on your mobile device. We should also mention the ability to participate in court hearings by video or Skype, and to stream audio of court sessions.

What if you’ve received some tickets and you want to just pay them and get it over with, but you don’t remember how many tickets, or what they were for, or how much the fine is? If your tickets are from Cook County, Georgia – where traffic tickets are handled by Probate Court of Cook County, you can go the court’s Payment Information page, enter your mobile number, click a button, and receive a text containing all the information you need to pay up.

Keep checking Court Reference for links to your local court’s website and related online resources.

→ No CommentsTags: Courtreference.com · Georgia · New Sites · Technology

How Many Courts?

May 31st, 2016 · No Comments

Here at CourtReference, we’ve quite familiar with the court systems in every state. Unless you have business with courts in many different states, you may not be aware of how different court systems can be from state to state.

The basic structure is not so different; each state usually has a trial court in which the parties argue both the facts and the law in front of a judge or jury. The judge decides how to apply the law, and the judge or jury decides which facts are true and which are not – in other words, which party is telling the truth.

If one party is not satisfied with the outcome of the case in the trial court, they can appeal to a higher level court. Many states have another level, usually called the state Supreme Court, to which a decision of the intermediate appellate court can be appealed.

That’s the basic structure in each state: a trial court and one or more levels of courts of appeal. Since the great majority of cases are heard in the trial court, and very few people who encounter the court system end up in a court of appeals, CourtReference only provides contact information for trial courts, links to trial court websites, and links to online resources related to trial courts.

Although the trial court is the first and usually the only court you will encounter in each state, there is usually more than one type of trial court in each state. We explored some examples from California, Michigan, and Texas in our post Which Court Do I Go To? To summarize that post, we noted that California has a single type of trial court (Superior Court) in each county, Michigan has four types (Circuit, District, Probate, Municipal), with each hearing different types of cases. Although California has a single Superior Court in each county, that court is organized into specialized Divisions in most counties. Although each Texas county has several trial court types (see below), we only mentioned District Courts in Texas because many Texas counties have multiple District Courts that hear different types of cases.

Confused yet? Just wait, there’s more! There are two very basic types of trial courts: trial courts “of record” and trial courts that are not of record. “Of record” means that the court proceedings are recorded and a transcript can be obtained. On appeal from a court of record, the facts of the case are not re-tried; they’re in the transcript, and the judge’s decisions about the law are the only parts of the trial that may be challenged. On appeal from a court that is not of record, there is no record of the facts and arguments, so the whole case is tried over again. Courts that are not of record are mostly Municipal Courts, which have jurisdiction over a limited geographical area and very specific types of cases.

As an experiment, we decided to compare the court systems in each state to see which states and the most – and least – number of trial court types. We only counted general trial courts; we did not count specialized courts that only hear one type of case, such as Tax Courts, Water Courts, or Workers’ Compensation Courts. We also skipped courts that only exist in a single county or city, such as Denver Probate Court, Philadelphia Municipal Court, New Orleans Traffic Court, Marion County (Indiana) Small Claims Court, and St. Joseph County (Indiana) Probate Court. Finally, we skipped “Specialty Courts” such as Drug Courts and Mental Health Courts, which are generally not separate courts but are special divisions of an actual court.

Just how different are the number? Many states have only one or two types of trial courts: Alaska, Arkansas, California (one Superior Court, but with separate Divisions), Connecticut, District of Columbia (one Superior Court, but with separate Divisions), Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire (Superior Court, plus Circuit Court with separate Divisions), North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Most of the rest have three or four. A few have five or six. Who’s the winner? New York has nine different types of trial courts! We could ignore those that only exist in New York City proper (Civil Courts of the City of New York, Criminal Courts of the City of New York), but that still leaves seven: Supreme Court (which is actually a trial court in New York; the higher courts are Appellate Division and Court of Appeals), Family Court, Surrogate’s Court, County Court, District Court, City Court and Town and Village Courts.

If we ignore those two New York City courts, then Georgia is the winner with eight types of trial courts: Superior Court, State Court, Juvenile Court, Probate Court, Magistrate Court, Civil Court, Municipal Court, and Recorder’s Court. Not far behind are Tennessee and Texas, each with seven different types of trial courts.

→ No CommentsTags: Alaska · Arkansas · California · Colorado · Connecticut · Court Systems · Courtreference.com · District of Columbia · Florida · Georgia · Idaho · Illinois · Indiana · Iowa · Kentucky · Louisiana · Michigan · Minnesota · Missouri · New Hampshire · New York · North Dakota · Oklahoma · Pennsylvania · South Dakota · Tennessee · Texas · Vermont · Wisconsin

A New Look for CourtReference.com

April 28th, 2016 · No Comments

We’ve made it easier for you to find the court-related information you need on CourtReference.com. When you search for your local court information on CourtReference.com, you will select a county; then CourtReference.com will display a page containing a list of all the courts in that county, along with contact information for each court.

Until our recent re-design, each court’s information was followed by three links: an “Online Resources” link, a “Map This Court” link, and a link containing the name of the court. If you didn’t know what those links meant – or didn’t realize they were links, even though they were bold and underlined – you might not click on them. By not clicking on them, you would miss out on a full page of links to resources related to that court (“Online Resources”), a map and directions to the court (“Map This Court”), and the court’s own website (the name of the court, bold and underlined).

Now those links are gone, and all you see is the name of each court followed by its contact information. But now the only instance of the court name is bold and underlined – the only obvious link for that particular court. When you click that link, CourtReference.com now displays a page containing the court contact information plus an obvious link to the court’s website (“Website”) if it has one, plus a map to the court, plus a link to “Directions” to the court if the map is not sufficient, plus all of the links to related resources on the same page.

An easy example is the first county in the first state, alphabetically: Autauga County, Alabama.

  • Start at www.courtreference.com
  • In the “Select a state below to get started” list, click “Alabama Courts” and you’ll be taken to our main Alabama page
  • In the “Directory of Alabama Courts by County” drop-down menu (or from the list of counties at the bottom of the page), select “Autauga” and you’ll be taken to our main Autauga County page

… and you will see all of the trial courts in Autauga County, along with their contact information. Interested in Prattville Municipal Court? Just click the bold/underlined Prattville Municipal Court link, and you’ll be taken to the Prattville Municipal Court page containing everything related to just that court: contact information, map and directions, and all related links.

We think this will make it easier to locate the information you need about each court. You won’t have to figure out what “Online Resources” means, or why the court name is displayed twice. Please note that some of our earlier blog posts, such as:

suggest clicking “Online Resources” to be taken to links to court records and other resources. Now you don’t have to do that; just click the court name and everything you ever wanted to know about that court is in one place.

→ No CommentsTags: Alabama · Courtreference.com · Finding Court Records · News