Summary: California offers some pretty good tools for finding your court case online. These tools aren't available in all counties. In this article we discuss how to find your case. If you've been sued for a debt, you can use SoloSuit to respond.
If you have been sued by a debt collector in California, it is important to stay on top of recent court filings to ensure you did not miss a Complaint, other court documents, or scheduled hearings in the case.
Currently, California does not have a statewide tool where you can search for your court case online. However, most counties have online portals where you can look up your case status without leaving home. In some courts, you might have to take a trip to the courthouse or call the court clerk to look up your case.
You may be feeling somewhat intimidated at the prospect of navigating California court records and digitized court filings. Do not fret. SoloSuit is here to help. This article provides advice and tips on how to find your lawsuit within the California court system.
Before diving into the inner workings of a California case search, let's go over the state's legal system and how it's structured.
Understand the civil court structure in California
When you're sued for a debt in California, it's important to understand how the civil courts are structured so you can find your case information online or in person. When you know what courts have jurisdiction over certain types of cases, it will be easier for you to narrow down the court to which your case is assigned. Debt collection lawsuits are always civil cases. In California, these three courts deal with civil cases:
Supreme Court: As the highest judicial level in the state, the Supreme Court is an appellate court which means it has jurisdiction over cases that have been appealed from the Court of Appeals.
Court of Appeals: When someone disagrees with a case outcome in the Superior Court, they can appeal it. All appealed Superior Court civil cases are transferred to the Court of Appeals.
Superior Court: Each county in California has a Superior Court. Also known as the Trial Court, the Superior Court deals with all civil cases. Small claims cases involve $10,000 or less, while limited civil cases deal with cases of up to $25,000, and unlimited civil cases take on all cases involving $25,000 or more.
Debt cases are initiated in the Superior Court in California. So, if you're being sued, your case is most likely in the Superior Court of whichever county you reside.
The graphic below further illustrates the civil court structure in California:
In addition to these three main levels, there are specialized courts operating in California. These courts include:
Collaborative Justice Courts
Check the status of your debt collection case in California
Now that you know what information you'll need to search for your case, let's talk about how to do it.
California courts keep the official records of a case in electronic or paper files. The paper files are kept in the courthouse while the electronic files are uploaded into the electronic court records.
To check the status of your California court case, you have two major options:
Visit the courthouse or call the court clerk.
Use a county case search tool to look up your case online.
Now, let's take a closer look at the two options for checking your court case status.
1. Visit the courthouse or call the court clerk
Some counties do not offer online services where you can access your case status from home. However, you can always take a quick trip down to the courthouse to get help from a court clerk.
To find your courthouse, use the California Superior Court directory. Click on your county which will take you to the Superior Court page for that specific county. Here, you can find court clerk contact information and courthouse locations throughout the region.
Most court clerks are willing to look up your case for you. If you go in person, you might even be able to request copies of court records at a cost. Most courthouses also have computers with public access portals where you can search for your case if you don't have a computer at home.
Currently, these are the counties that do not offer online case search tools that you can access from home:
2. Use a county case search tool to look up your case online
If you don't have time to make the trip to the courthouse to check your case status, you're in luck. Most California counties have online access portals where you can look up your case, and even view documents, from the comfort of your own home.
Find your case online by entering some or all of the following information:
Case number: All court cases are assigned a case number for organizational purposes. Entering your case number will be the fastest and easiest way to find your case online. Just make sure you enter the case number in its correct format, which varies by county.
Party names: If you don't know your case number, you can also search with your full name or the name of the other party in the case.
Case type: Narrow down your search by selecting what type of case you have (civil, criminal, traffic, etc.). For example, debt collection cases are always going to be considered civil or small claims cases, which usually use the codes CV or SC.
Below is a link to the case search portals for all the California counties where you can search for your case online:
Some counties require you to pay about $10 to access a specific document, but most of these tools will at least allow you to check your case status and see the types of documents that have been filed into the case.
Who can review electronic court records?
The public is allowed to look at court records for most cases. However, there are some court records the public is not allowed to access. This happens when a law or court order makes a record confidential.
Examples of confidential cases include “juvenile dependency” (when a child is removed from their parents) and “juvenile delinquency” (when a child is accused of committing a crime). Court records for these cases are not available to the public.
In other cases, there are certain documents in the case file that are not available to the public. An example of these is a fee waiver application. The public may be able to see part of the court record but would not be able to see this document.
Even when the public is not allowed to look at a court record, there will still be certain people who are allowed. For example, if you are a party in a case, you can look at the court record even if the public cannot.
Respond to a debt collection lawsuit in California
Ignoring a debt collector's notices is not a good idea. Although the persistent calls and mail can be irritating, they help you know what the collector is up to. For example, the collector may have filed a debt collection lawsuit and sent you the court Summons via the postal service.
If you reside in California, you only have 30 days to respond to a debt collection lawsuit. However, if you ignore the Summons, you run the risk of the debt collector filing a Motion for a Default Judgment and a judge granting that motion. When this happens, the debt collector can proceed with garnishing your wages and seizing assets in an effort to collect on the amount owed. The first step to winning your debt collection case is to respond with a written Answer.
As you can see, it can be challenging to properly navigate the California court case system, but if you take the time to prepare and gain a general understanding of how the court system operates, you should be able to locate your lawsuit with relative ease. This will also be helpful to make sure your Answer was properly filed.
Check out this video to learn more about how to Answer a debt collection lawsuit in California:
You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.
SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.
Respond with SoloSuit
"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James
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Do you keep getting calls from an unknown number, only to realize that it’s a debt collector on the other line? If you’ve been called by any of the following numbers, chances are you have collectors coming after you, and we’ll tell you how to stop them.
It only takes 15 minutes. And 50% of our customers' cases have been dismissed in the past.
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