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HOW DO I SEARCH FOR ARIZONA COURT RECORDS?

Court records in Arizona are available from the different branches of the judicial system in the State. In line with the Arizona Public Records Law, court records are made available to citizens on request. In certain circumstances, some court records may be unavailable to the public due to being sealed by a court order or a statute. To obtain a court record in Arizona, a citizen may:

  • Visit the local courthouse where the case was heard to obtain a paper copy of the record
  • Remotely access the court website/portal online to view electronic versions of the court record if the court in question makes such provision available.

To determine the location of a courthouse, use the ‘Find My Court' or ‘Courts Locator' tool available on the Arizona Judicial Branch website. When in search of electronic court records, requestors may find the ‘Find a Court Case' tool on the Arizona Judicial Branch web homepage helpful. Note, copying available court records may cost a nominal fee depending on the volume of the request.

HOW TO GET ARIZONA COURT RECORDS ONLINE FOR FREE?

Court records are not entirely free, online case information may offer some near-free alternative. For local courts that provide their case information online, requestors may visit such courts' websites to view electronic court records. However, if certified copies or paper copies of court records are required, requestors may have to visit local courthouses to obtain court records.

Several options are available to the public to access Arizona court records. These include using the Case-Lookup search tool on the Arizona Judicial Branch website. Court records for 177 out of 184 courts in the state may be accessed via this tool. Users can make a quick search of available records by name or case numbers.

For courts in the state not using this portal to make available their court records, the public may find such records on the websites of the courts. These courts include the Arizona Supreme Court, the two divisions of the Court of Appeals, Municipal Courts in Maricopa County among other courts in Maricopa and Pima Counties.

The tools describe above only provide to the public case information of Arizona court records. However, the Arizona Judicial Branch also offers public access to the electronic format of the actual court document of cases filed at the Superior Courts in the state. To access these Superior Court civil and criminal case documents, use the eAccess, web portal on the judicial branch website.

To use the eAccess portal, users are required to register. Government agencies, attorneys, and individuals may register. A phone number, e-mail address, and credit card are required for registration. Government agencies are not required to provide a credit card while an attorney requires a bar number and form name to register. The eAccess portal also allows registered users to be able to certify documents electronically and to verify the authenticity of a certified document.

Court records are considered open to the public and are usually accessible through government sources, though they may also be accessed through third-party websites. These websites offer an easier method in most cases, as they are not limited by geographical area, or by limitations in search engine technology. They can often serve as a starting point when looking for a specific record, or multiple records. Interested parties must usually provide:

  • The name of the person listed in the record. This may not apply to records on juveniles.
  • The assumed or known location of the person listed in the record. This will most often be a city, county, or state.

Because they are not government-sponsored, record availability on third party websites may vary when compared to government sources.

HOW DOES THE ARIZONA COURT SYSTEM WORK?

The Arizona Court System can be divided into 3 categories namely; courts with limited jurisdiction, courts with general jurisdiction, and courts with appellate jurisdiction. The Justice of Peace Courts and the Municipal Courts are the courts with limited jurisdiction. Superior Courts in Arizona have general jurisdiction while the Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court are Arizona's courts with appellate jurisdiction.

The municipal courts are the lowest courts in Arizona and hence the first contact of most citizens with the judicial system in the state. There are municipal courts in every county of Arizona. Each county has a minimum of 2 municipal courts except Greenly County which has just one. There are Justice Courts in 85 precincts, and a Superior Court judge in each county of Arizona. The Court of Appeals is separated into divisions in Phoenix and Tucson while a single Supreme Court heads the judicial system in Arizona.

HOW DOES THE ARIZONA MUNICIPAL COURT WORK?

Arizona Municipal Courts are also known as City Courts or magistrate courts. Municipal Courts and Justice Courts share jurisdictions over contraventions of state law perpetrated within the borders of their city or town. Arizona City Courts do not handle cases of civil lawsuits between citizens but can issue search warrants, protection orders, and anti-harassment injunctions. Municipal courts original jurisdictions are over cases involving:

  • Misdemeanor crimes
  • Petty offenses
  • Traffic-related offenses
  • Contraventions of city ordinances and codes

Judges are appointed by the city or town councils according to the established ordinances of the town or city. The only exception is in Yuma where City Court judges are elected. Municipal court judges are required to serve a minimum 2-year term and are not mandated to be attorneys.

HOW DOES THE ARIZONA JUSTICE COURT WORK?

Similar to City Courts, Justice Courts are courts with limited jurisdictions. Justice Courts may also be referred to as Justice of the Peace Courts. Each county in Arizona has Justice Courts. Justice Courts have jurisdictions over civil cases, criminal cases, and every type of traffic violation.

Justice Court civil jurisdiction covers cases where the amount in dispute is not greater than $10,000, including:

  • Breach of Contract Cases
  • Negligence actions
  • Consumer complaints against businesses
  • Collection cases
  • Eviction actions and landlord & tenant disputes

Their criminal jurisdiction covers cases of:

  • DUI and underage drinking
  • Assault or battery
  • Petty offenses and misdemeanors
  • Misdemeanors and criminal offenses punishable by fines not more than $2,500, or imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed 6 months, or both
  • Issuing warrants and conducting preliminary hearings for felonies.

An Arizona Justice of the Peace is required to be a qualified voter in the precinct in which duties of office will be performed, must be at least 18 years old, and must be an Arizona resident. Justices are elected to 4-year terms and are not required to be attorneys.

HOW DOES THE ARIZONA SUPERIOR COURT WORK?

The Superior Courts in Arizona are the state's courts of general jurisdiction. These courts are in every county of the state with several counties having more than one. Superior Courts serve an appellate function for the lower courts (Justice and Municipal Courts). Superior Courts in Arizona have probation departments that supervise adults and juveniles on probation.

Generally, Arizona Superior Courts jurisdictions cover cases and proceedings where the exclusive jurisdiction is not vested by statute in another local court. These cases include:

  • Equity cases regarding real property possession or title
  • Cases concerning the legality of any tax, toll, or municipal ordinance
  • Property dispute where the valuation exceeds $1,000, exclusive of interest and costs
  • Criminal offense not provided for by law but amounting to a felony or a misdemeanor
  • Evictions of tenants
  • Insolvencies but not cases of bankruptcy
  • Actions against nuisances
  • Probate (wills and estates)
  • Divorces (Dissolution or annulment of marriages)
  • Special cases and proceedings not otherwise provided for law.

Arizona laws permit each county to have at least one judge and another one for every 30,000 residents in the county. Counties that have more than one Superior Court judge also have a special juvenile court for handling all juvenile cases. In addition, the Maricopa Superior Court has a tax court division that has jurisdiction over all cases involving tax disputes in Arizona. The tax court is the only lower court allowed to publish its decisions in the state.

A Superior Court judge is expected to be at least 30 years old, admitted to the practice of law in Arizona, and a resident of Arizona for the 5 years preceding taking office.

HOW DO THE ARIZONA COURTS OF APPEALS WORK?

The Arizona Court of Appeals is divided into two. Division I based in Phoenix has 16 judges, and Division II based in Tucson which has six judges. Apache, Coconino, La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, Navajo, Yavapai, and Yuma fall under Division I. While Division II consists of the other seven counties of Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Pinal, and Santa Cruz. Note, Superior Courts are bound by all of the Courts of Appeals' decisions, regardless of the division where the decisions are issued.

The Division I of the Court of Appeals has statewide responsibility for reviewing decisions from the lower courts involving:

  • The Industrial Commission
  • Unemployment compensation rulings of the Department of Economic Security
  • Tax disputes.

Generally, the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over appeals to review decisions on civil cases from the Superior Court on juvenile and domestic relations matters and criminal matters from the Superior Court except in cases involving death sentences.

The court may also decide petitions for special writs such as certiorari, mandamus, and prohibition.

Court of Appeals judges are expected to be residents of Arizona, admitted to the practice of law in Arizona for the 5 years preceding taking office, and must be at least 30 years old.

HOW DOES THE SUPREME COURT OF ARIZONA WORK?

The Supreme Court of Arizona is the court of last resort and the highest court of the state. The judicial system of Arizona affords the Supreme Court a discretionary jurisdiction, meaning the court does not have to entertain an appeal as a matter of right. However, the Supreme Court is obliged to review every appeal case involving a death sentence.

Other jurisdictions of the Supreme Court include:

  • Regulating activities of the State Bar of Arizona and oversees the admission of new attorneys to the practice of law.
  • Reviewing charges of misconduct against attorneys and has the authority to suspend or disbar them.
  • Serving as the final decision-making body when disciplinary recommendations are filed against Arizona judges by the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The Supreme Court of Arizona has seven justices initially appointed by the Governor on a 2-year term. They may be re-appointed for a regular term of six years if successful in a retention election. Among the seven justices, one is selected by colleagues to serve a five-year term as the Chief Justice. This Chief Justice supervises the administrative operations of all the lower courts in Arizona.

HOW MANY CASES DOES THE ARIZONA COURT SYSTEM HANDLE ANNUALLY?

Nearly 2 million cases are filed every year in Arizona Courts. In the 2018 fiscal year, an average of 7,597 cases was filed every working day in Arizona courts totaling over 1.8 million cases.

On further analysis of the 2018 figures, there were 756,403 case filings in the Justice Courts, 951,684 municipal court filings, 804 tax court filings, and 185,945 Superior Court filings. In the appellate category, Division I of the Court of Appeals recorded 2,954 filings and 3,656 terminations. Division II of the Court of Appeals recorded 858 filings and 967 case terminations while the Supreme Court recorded 1,311 filings and 1,226 case terminations.

Filings and Terminations for Supreme Court, Court of Appeals Division 1, and Court of Appeals Division 2. FY2014-FY2018

Supreme Court Court of Appeals I Court of Appeals 2
Year Filings Terminations Filings Terminations Filings Terminations
2014 1,037 978 2,630 2,443 782 1,162
2015 1,014 979 2,726 2,457 868 961
2016 1,038 1,057 2,698 2,553 917 1,064
2017 1,177 1,109 3,271 3,009 923 884
2018 1,311 1,226 2,954 3,656 858 967

Data provided by the Arizona Judicial Branch

Tax Court Filings and Terminations FY2014-FY2018

Year Filings Terminations
2014 1,104 1,562
2015 1,012 1,033
2016 851 948
2017 729 739
2018 804 844

Data provided by the Arizona Judicial Branch

Filings and Terminations for Superior Court, Justice Court, and Municipal Court FY2014-FY2018

Superior Courts Justice Courts Municipal Courts
Year Filings Terminations Filings Terminations Filings Terminations
2014 201,299 199,631 748,566 791,934 1,187,929 1,336,889
2015 190,611 196,753 709,521 728,560 1,095,099 1,209,775
2016 188,720 184,958 718,999 768,937 1,002,247 1,135,086
2017 189,507 187,280 726,872 753,995 938,500 987,417
2018 185,141 184,823 756,403 794,250 951,684 1,008,855

Data provided by the Arizona Judicial Branch

First names in Arizona