Finding cases in Riverside Superior Court and San Bernardino Superior Court

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

How do you find cases in Riverside Superior Court and San Bernardino Superior Court?  You can search online or at the courthouse.

San Bernardino Superior Court’s Online Case Access is easy to use.  I remember when I first started practicing in San Bernardino in 1998, it did not exist.  Back then you had to physically go to the courthouse and pull the file.   The cases get updated once a day, so don’t expect to see a change the same day you go to court.  Once you click on the link found above, you have two choices.  One button is Civil, Family Law, Small Claims and Probate.  The other button is Traffic/Criminal.   For example, if you have an unlawful detainer, click the  Civil, Family Law, Small Claims and Probate button on the right.

The link given is for “San Bernardino Main”   There is no need to go to any other court, because it has county-wide cases.

When you click the Civil button, you are faced with new choices.  You can search by case number.  You can find a case number on the pleadings in your case.  However, it is easier to search by name.   Almost all the searches I do on the site are by name.  Sometimes a name is common or misspelled, so you might try the other party.  To search by name, press the “NAME SEARCH” button.  Make sure to put the Last name first, and then the first name.  If it is a common name, use the middle initial box.

If the party is a corporation or a city, town, or county, or some other organization, use the “Business” box.  You can limit the search by date, which can be helpful if you are searching for cases against the County of San Bernardino, because they are involved in a lot of litigation.   You can also check up on a city by searching for cases listed on the Closed Session portion of a Brown Act agenda.

Using the County of San Bernardino as an example, you are now faced with a page called “Name Search Results”  It lists Party Name, Type, Case Name, Category, Case Name and Filed in a spreadsheet-like format.  If you click on any of those headers, you can rearrange the data.  For example, if you click on “Filed” it will put them in chronological order, and then reverse chronological order.  This is helpful when you represent an entity that is involved in a lot of litigation.  For example, when I was Assistant City Attorney, I would search “City of Redlands” to see what cases were filed, but not served against the City.  It allowed me to manage my case load by knowing what cases came next.

You can click on the case number to see the case.  This will give you a docket so that you can see what has happened in the case.  For a more detailed view, you can click on the underlined “minutes.”  To see all the minutes, and the actions and parties, click on the link titled Case Report in the upper middle part of the screen.  Here you can find the attorneys, if any, on the case, when parties were dismissed, what happened at hearings, and what future motions, hearings and trial dates are scheduled.  There is an Images button, but to my knowledge, only some probate images are available.

If your unlawful detainer is under 60 days old, you have to give additional information to find out the information.  The Court’s website mistakenly says that “Unlawful Detainer cases are confidential for sixty (60) days and cannot be viewed. However, Court Rule (1161.2(a)) provides for access to such cases by interested parties . . .”   The mistake is that the prohibition is found in Code of Civil Procedure section 1161.2, not the local rules or the California Rules of Court.  Even when I’ve had the correct information, it has never allowed me to find unlawful detainers less than sixty days old.

The criminal/traffic button is similar.   You can search by the defendant’s name.  Instead of clicking on the case number, you click on the first count charged.  You can sort by filing date, name, case number and month/year of birth.  The Case Report link works similarly, except it allows you the option of what information to include.  The Case Report gives you fairly detailed information about the criminal defendant.  These links are helpful when you read a newspaper article about a case, because you can find more information than is reported in the newspaper.

Riverside Superior Court uses the same system  “Open Access” as the San Bernardino Superior Court, or rather, San Bernardino uses the same as Riverside.  Riverside was first.  Riverside was also the first with images.  However, Riverside Superior Court charges for name searches.  However, you can search by case number for free, and do calendar searches for free.  If you know when a case went to court, you can get the case number from the calendar search, and then plug it into the case number search.

Riverside’s images used to be free.  This glorious era came to an end, and they are viewable online for a fee.  In the old days, you could get sample pleadings just by searching for a similar party.

A later post will focus on how to search and view cases in the Central District of California, the Federal Court District for Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law