The Washington Court System consists of four levels: The Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Superior Courts, and then the Municipal and District Courts.
The Supreme Court is located in Olympia. There is at least one District Court in each county, and most cities have a Municipal Court. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state and the court of last resort for many cases. The Supreme Court works closely with the Court Clerk’s Office, the Commissioner’s Office, the Reporter of Decisions Office, and the State Law Library. Judges in the Supreme Court are elected and serve staggered six-year terms.
Unless protected by state laws, court order or federal mandate, all court records in Washington will be readily available to the general public with a few exceptions:
- “Adoption records.
- Mental illness commitment records.
- Alcohol and drug treatment commitment records.
- Paternity records (except final orders).
- Confidential name-change records.
- Juvenile non-offender records (Juvenile Dependency, Truancy, At-Risk Youth, Child in Need of Services, Termination of Parental Rights, and Developmental Disability Placement).
- Court records sealed by judicial order.”
Additionally, federal law protects things like children’s names, social security numbers, tax IDs, banking information, and trade secrets from being included in open public records.
The state of Washington makes it easy for patrons of the court system to file cases. The very first item on their judicial branch website is a section of forms. They separated the forms into categories for common cases like divorce, child support, protective orders, criminal offenses, juvenile cases, mental health issues, guardianships, adoption matters, and civil lawsuits. Filing must be done in person with the Court Clerk of the courthouse where the case will be heard. Legal assistance is available to self-represented litigants and other people needing help. They also offer ADA accommodations at their courthouses.
Did you know you could use Infotracer to search for court records in Washington? With access to thousands of WA court cases, Infotracer makes it easy to find court records in King County, Pierce County, and Snohomish County. Thanks to the WA Public Records Act Chapter 42.56 RCW, all public citizens have the right to review criminal court records, civil cases, family and probate matters, bankruptcies and more.
Anyone can perform a court records search in private without requesting permission or needing a good reason. All records will be available online except those that have been marked as confidential by law.
Try Infotracer today to get free instant access to WA court records from most courts in the state. Performing a state court records search by name is the best way to lookup cases online from the state superior courts, municipal courts, and district courts.
In 2012, the Washington courts received 2,377,252 filings. In 2016, the number of filings decreased by 77.3% and counted 539,800 filings and had 577,687 outgoing cases
|Court Type||Incoming Caseloads|
Domestic relations caseload of Washington at year end of 2016 has decreased by 7.7% compared to the last 5 years, in 2012 the number of incoming cases have been 64,944 but are higher than in 2015.
|Year||Domestic Relations Caseload||Total Statewide Caseload|
The number of criminal cases in Washington courts counts to 239,166, with 53,679 felony cases and 185,487 misdemeanors accordingly.
|Year||Criminal Caseload||Misdemeanor Caseload||Felony Caseload|
Washington’s Superior Courts are the general jurisdiction courts for the state and the highest trial courts. They have original jurisdiction over criminal and civil matters. They also handle limited appeals from the lower courts. Some Superior Courts have a Juvenile Division to specifically handle all issues dealing with children. There are 30 judicial districts in the state and a Superior Court in each of the 39 counties in this state. In rural parts of the state, some Superior Courts share one judge. Judges are elected to four-year terms and vacancies are handled by the Governor appointing a judge to fill in until the next election.
Washington’s Municipal Courts are limited jurisdiction courts and handle mostly city ordinance violations such as traffic cases and parking tickets. They can only handle issues that occur within the city limits. Their jurisdiction is limited to gross misdemeanors, infractions, domestic violence issues, no-contact orders, and other protective orders. Most cities here have Municipal Courts, and more than 2 million total cases are filed in Municipal and District Courts. Approximately seven out of eight cases filed in WA courts are processed at the Municipal and District Court level.
Washington’s District Courts are limited jurisdiction courts also but can handle both criminal and civil cases. Many cases seen in District Courts are gross misdemeanors, traffic, and non-traffic violations such as DUIs, reckless driving, driving without a license or assault in the fourth degree. They also process preliminary hearings for felonies, civil cases of up to $100,000, contract disputes, personal injury cases, domestic abuse issues, protective orders, small claims of up to $5,000 and landlord/tenant matters. District Court judges serve four-year terms, and they must attend 45 hours of training every three years.