Washington Court Records

Why Washington Court Records are Available to the Public

In 1972, the Washington State Legislature pass a law named the Washington Public Records Act. This law enables  the last changes in 2010 and aims to make sure disclosure of court records and other public records to the public.

What Court Records Access Means To You

The law is similar to the Washington Open Meeting Law which legislates the methods by which public meetings are held. The Washington Public Records Act intent is that all records maintained by state and local government entities be available for public access and copying.

Accountability to the Public

When the legislature enacted Washington Public Records Act, it expressively declared that access to information about the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state, http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=42.56&full=true . Indeed, in Washington access to the government and court records, in particular, a fundamental interest in citizenship and has emphasized that maxim disclosure of the conduct of governmental operations promoted by the act. By promoting prompt public access to government records, the Washington Public Records Act is to safeguard the government's accountability to the public.

How the Washington Court Process Functions

Most cases in Washington courts begin in one of the 39 superior or trial courts in  the state’s 39 counties.

The next level of judicial authority resides with the Court of Appeals. Most cases before the Court of Appeals involves the review of a superior court decision being contested by a party involved in the case.

The Supreme Court serves as the highest court in the state to check decisions of the Court of Appeals to settle important questions of law and to resolve conflicts among the Court of Appeals.

 Some differences between Civil Court and Small Claims Court below

 

Small Claims

Civil

Appeal

Only the party who was sued can file an appeal. The person who filed the claim cannot appeal.

Either party can appeal.

Attorney Representation

You cannot have a lawyer file your papers or go to court with you – except for an appeal.

You can have a lawyer file your papers and go to court for you.

Filing fee for either defendant or plaintiff’s claim

$30 -$100 per claim

$180 - $320 per claim

Pretrial Discovery allowed

No 

Yes

How long to complete your case

30-70 days after the complaint

120 days after you file the complaint

You do not need a U.S. citizenship to file or defend a case in Small Claims Court. If you do not speak English well, bring someone who speaks English and asks the judge if that person can serve as your interpreter. The court cannot offer you an interpreter.

You can find an interpreter by using the Washington Courts Interpreter Search page. Also, see the web page with interpreter information on this website https://aoc.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1790 .

How Washington Court Records Are Structured

The court records group is divided into civil and small claims matters.

Civil cases are matters where the petitioner is seeking more than $200,000. Close to 175,000 civil court records filed with the courts annually. Civil cases also include other types of disputes that do not involve money, like cases to resolve (or “quiet”) title to real property, cases asking for civil restraining orders and requests to change your name or your child’s name.

Small Claims Court filings are cases where the petitioner is seeking $5,000 or less and is not represented by counsel. Close to 150,000 of small claims cases is filed statewide every year. 

Here are some examples of common Small Claims Court cases:

  • Your former landlord refuses to return the security deposit you paid.
  • Someone dents your fender and refuses to pay for the repairs.
  • Your new TV does not work, and the store will not fix it.
  • Your tenant caused damage to the apartment, and the repairs cost more than their security deposit (Note: You cannot use small claims court to evict someone.).
  • You lent money to a friend, and he/she refuses to pay you back.
  • Small Claims Court can also order a defendant to do something, as long as the claim is also asking for money. For example, the court can cancel a contract or the court can order your neighbor to pay you for your lawn mower or order them to return it to you right away. 
Washington State Archives

Washington State Archives

Results Include

Full State Record Report:

  • Name
  • Location
  • Case Number
  • Case Summary
  • Docket
  • Police Report
  • Court Documents
  • Legal Records
  • Case File
  • Statements
  • Transcripts
  • Legal Forms
  • Case Notes
  • Disposition
  • Trial Records
  • Arbitration
  • Case Evidence
  • Witnesses
  • Interviews
  • Descriptions
  • Mugshots
  • Charges
  • Legal Motions
  • Attorney Records
  • Prosecution Records
Washington Thurston County Courthouse 1905

Washington Thurston County Courthouse 1905

  • State archives hold over 75,000 cubic feet of records.
  • There are 2 levels of courts – trial and appellate.
  • The Washington Court of Appeals has three divisions, based in Tacoma, Seattle, and Spokane. This court considers appeals in civil and criminal cases that are appealed from Superior Courts.
  • There are 39 Superior Courts in Washington, one in each of Washington's 39 counties.
  • The Superior Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction in Washington. A Superior Court may consider all civil and criminal matters occurring within a county's boundary.
  • The highest court in Washington is the Washington Supreme Court.
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