HOW DO I SEARCH OKLAHOMA COURT RECORDS?
Oklahoma court records are subject to the state's public records law. These court records are maintained by different bodies under the Oklahoma judiciary system. The records are available in both paper and electronic format. The public can inspect and copy these records unless where such records are restricted or sealed by the law or court order. Oklahoma Court records can be accessed by the public in the following ways:
- Visit the local courthouse and request to inspect the paper records
- Visit the local courthouse, request to view the electronic copies of available court records via the public computer terminals
- Remotely access electronic court records via the internet for courts that offer this service.
To determine the location and contact of the Clerk of Court in any county in the state, use the directory on the Oklahoma State Court Network website. Generally, Clerks of Court charge a nominal fee for providing copies of available court records.
HOW TO GET OKLAHOMA COURT RECORDS ONLINE FOR FREE
The Oklahoma Judiciary System makes available court records, however, this service does not come free, although inexpensive. One of the ways the public can access these records is online, that is, accessing electronic copies of these court records. Electronic copies of court records are not official copies, users are advised to approach the courthouse where the action was filed for the official/certified copies of these records.
The Oklahoma Judicial System provides electronic copies of the state courts' records on its website via its electronic Docket System. This Docket System houses both the trial courts and the appellate court records. Users will be able to search Oklahoma State Court Network's (OSCN) Docket System in a variety of ways, including:
- By county
- By case number
- By party
- By case type
- By name
Note, not all courts in the state are participating in the OSCN Docket System. Alternatively, the requestor may use visit the website of non-participating courts to determine if the courts offer electronic records or use the ODCR search engine. The ODCR offers free and subscription-based search for participating courts.
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 OKLAHOMA COURT SYSTEM WORK?
Oklahoma judiciary system consists of three appellate courts, one trial court of general jurisdiction, and three special courts. The District Court is the state's trial court of general jurisdiction while the Court of Civil Appeals is the state's intermediate court. Oklahoma is one of the two states in the United States to have two courts of last resort. These are the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is the administrative head of the Oklahoma Judiciary System.
The Special Courts are trial courts with limited jurisdiction. These courts include the Workers' Compensation Court, Court on Tax Review, and Municipal Courts. There 77 District Courts in the state which are organized into 26 judicial districts. TheseDistrict Courts handle over 500,000 cases annually.
HOW DOES THE OKLAHOMA DISTRICT COURT WORK?
The District Courts have general jurisdiction over both civil and criminal cases. The Court has the power to review administrative actions as may be provided by statute. The District Court also presides over the small claims matters in Oklahoma. This claim cannot exceed $6,000 involving breach of contract, injuries, and recovery of personal property.
Four counties (Oklahoma, Osage, Bryan, and Canadian) make up individual judicial districts while each of the other 22 judicial districts is comprised of two or more counties. The judicial districts are:
- District 1: Beaver, Cimarron, Harper, Texas
- District 2: Beckham, Custer, Ellis, Roger Mills, Washita
- District 3: Greer, Harmon, Kiowa, Jackson, Tillman
- District 4: Alfalfa, Blaine, Dewey, Garfield, Grant, Kingfisher, Major,Woods, Woodward
- District 5: Comanche, Cotton, Jefferson, Stephens
- District 6: Caddo, Grady
- District 7: Oklahoma
- District 8: Kay, Noble
- District 9: Logan, Payne
- District 10: Osage
- District 11: Nowata, Washington
- District 12: Craig, Mayes, Rogers
- District 13: Delaware, Ottawa
- District 14: Pawnee, Tulsa
- District 15: Adair, Cherokee, Muskogee, Sequoyah, Wagoner
- District 16: Haskell, Latimer, LeFlore
- District 17: Choctaw, McCurtain, Pushmataha
- District 18: McIntosh, Pittsburg
- District 19: Bryan
- District 20: Carter, Johnston, Love, Marshall, Murray
- District 21: Cleveland, Garvin, McClain
- District 22: Hughes, Pontotoc, Seminole
- District 23: Lincoln, Pottawatomie
- District 24: Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Creek
- District 25: Atoka, Coal
- District 26: Canadian
These 26 districts are further divided into 9 judicial administrative districts for better organization. Each District Court has at least one district judge and one associate district judge. The judges of the district court are elected in a non-partisan election for a term of four years. Candidates for these positions must be a practicing lawyer or judge with four experience (for district judge) or two-year experience (for associate district judge). A presiding judge charged with the responsibility of administration of their district is also elected.
Civil Appeals from the District Courts go to the Oklahoma Supreme Court while criminal appeals go to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
HOW DOES THE OKLAHOMA MUNICIPAL COURT WORK?
The jurisdiction of this court is limited to specific cases that have to do violations of city ordinances which are criminal in nature and traffic tickets. The Municipal Court has no civil jurisdiction. Municipal judges are usually appointed by mayors unlike judges of the state courts. Even though they are under the administration of the Supreme Court.
All Municipal Courts in Oklahoma are courts of no records with exception of the Municipal Courts in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Appeals of these courts' cases go to the District Court while appeals of cases from the Municipal Courts in Oklahoma or Tulsa go to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
WHAT IS THE OKLAHOMA WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT OF EXISTING CLAIMS?
This is a court of limited jurisdiction that handles cases involving compensation claims on injuries that occurred to an employee within the scope of its employment. The court is made up of four judges appointed by the Governor on the advice and consent of the State Senate. The Governor also appoints the presiding judge among the court judges to serve a term of two years. This presiding judge is charged with the responsibility of overseeing the administration and functioning of the court.
WHAT IS THE OKLAHOMA COURT OF TAX REVIEW?
This is a special court with limited jurisdiction. The court hears disputes arising from illegal taxes charged by county and city governments. The court also hears taxpayer protests and Oklahoma tax commission appeals. Tax reviews are heard by three District Court judges. When a tax review case is filed, it is sent to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, who forwards the claims to the presiding judge of the District Court. The presiding judge thereafter appoints the three judges to a panel to hear the cases.
Appeals from the Court ofTax Review go to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
WHAT ARE OKLAHOMA APPELLATE COURTS?
The Supreme Court is one of the two apex courts in the state and the court of last resort for all civil matters. All appeals in civil cases are made to the Supreme Court; appeals from the District Court, Workers Compensation Court of Existing Claims, Court of Tax Review, and some State Agencies.These State agencies include the Department of Public Safety, Oklahoma Tax Commission, Oklahoma Corporation Commission, and the Department of Human Service. The Supreme Court then directs the appeals to one of the four divisions of the Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court also performs other administrative responsibilities for the entire judicial system. These include establishing the rules of court which are binding on all the court in the state court system.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court is made up of nine justices. Each of these justices is selected from one of the nine judicial districts and sits for a term of six years. The court selects from itsnine justices, a Chief Justice and a Vice Chief Justice who are to serve for a term of two years. The Chief Justice presides over all court sessions and has administrative authority over all courts in the state.
HOW DOES THE OKLAHOMA COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS WORK?
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals was created in 1907 with exclusive appellate jurisdiction in criminal cases coming directly from the District Court. As the court of last resort for criminal matters in the state, it has the power to hear an appeal involving a death sentence in Oklahoma. The court is staffed with five judges and sits at the Oklahoma Judicial Center in Oklahoma City. If the issue of jurisdiction arises between the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal, the Supreme Court has the power to determine which court has jurisdiction and its determination is final.
HOW DOES THE OKLAHOMA COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS WORK?
Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals is an intermediate appellate court that handles appeals assigned to it by the Supreme Court. The Court of Civil Appeals comprises of four divisions; divisionsI and III are located in Oklahoma City at the Denver Davison building, and Divisions II and IV are housed in Tulsa at the Kerr- Edmondson building. The court is made up of 12 judges divided into four panels with three judges each in the four divisions. The decision of the court of appeal may be reviewed by the Supreme Court upon petition by any of the parties involved in the case.
To be eligible for election as a justice of the Supreme Court, a judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Civil Appeals, the candidate must check the following pre-requisites:
- The justice or judge must be at least 30 years old,
- Must have been a qualified elector in the appropriate district for at least one year immediately before the appointment,
- Must have been a licensed practicing attorney or judge of a court of record for a five-years preceding appointment.
It should be noted that the Governor of the state appoints the justices and the judges of these appellate courts from a list of named candidates nominated by the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission. Elected judges are to serve until the next general election. The justices and judges stand for a retention schedule which allows them to serve an additional 6 years until the next retention election.
WHAT ARE THE OKLAHOMA TRIBAL COURTS?
Federally recognized tribes across the United States are allowed to have their own court systems. There are defined jurisdiction codes and constitutions to the operations of these courts in dealing with offenses involving Native Americans on tribal lands. Cases handled by these tribal courts differ from one tribe to another.
Typically, cases handled include adoptions, child abuse, child support, civil infractions, criminal offenses, custody, divorce, guardianships, paternity, probate, and traffic. The state of Oklahoma has 38 tribal nations and 22 Tribal Courts.
HOW MANY CASES DOES THE OKLAHOMA COURT SYSTEM HANDLE ANNUALLY?
Over 500,000 cases are filed in Oklahoma District Courts annually by litigants and attorneys. For instance, in the fiscal year of 2018, the District Courts handled a total of 507,582 filed cases. This represents 230,024 civil cases, 271,767 criminal cases, and 5,791 juvenile cases. A total of 477,867 dispositions was made.
Oklahoma District Courts Total Filings Fiscal Years 2011 Through 2018
Data provided by Oklahoma Judicial Branch