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Sonoma County District Court records, 1850-1946 (bulk: 1850-1879 )
SCG.00051  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Scope and Contents
  • Court History
  • Access Terms
  • Important Information for Users of the Collection
  • Arrangement of Materials:
  • Scope and Contents

  • Overview of the Collection

    Collection Title: Sonoma County District Court records,
    Dates: 1850-1946
    Date (bulk): 1850-1878 (bulk)
    Identification: SCG.00051
    Creator: California. District Court (7th Judicial District) California. District Court (22nd Judicial District)
    Physical Description: 46 volumes, 1 box
    Language of Materials: English
    Repository: Sonoma County Library Archives
    Sonoma County Library
    6135 State Farm Drive
    Rohnert Park, CA 94928
    Abstract: This collection contains records reflect various aspects of the operations of the District CourtDistrict Court. These include: registers of actions in civil and criminal cases heard in the District Court, and fees paid; liens for state and county taxes; lists of defendents and plaintiffs; minutes of each court session, court actions, and rules of the court.

    Scope and Contents

    There are three series of Sonoma County District Court records: an Old Series, a New Series, and a Complaints in Equity Series (also known as Tax Suits).
    The Old Series records comprise 1305 District Court suits numbered 1 through 1294. Ten Old Series suits are numbered with non-integer numbers (49½, 184½, 245½, 300½, 301½, 528½, 592½, 897½, 1128½, and 1142½), and one suit number (918) is used twice. The initial complaints of these suits were generally filed during the years 1850 to 1863.
    In “An Act concerning Records of District Courts” approved by the California Legislature 13 April 1863, every County Clerk was required to keep two separate index volumes for all District Court suits, one labeled General Index-Plaintiffs and the other General Index-Defendants. Each page of each of the indices was to be divided into seven columns: Number of Suit, Plaintiffs, Defendants, Date of Judgment, Number of Judgment, Page of Entry of Judgment in Judgment Book, and Page of Minute Book of District Court. The Sonoma County Clerk began a second series (the “New Series”) of Sonoma County District Court suits when he began to enter these suits into the new index volumes. The numbering of these suits began again from the number one. The Clerk was to receive as compensation for entering these suits into the index books fifty cents for each suit, taxed and collected as other court costs.
    The New Series records comprise 2943 District Court suits numbered 1 through 2925. 53 New Series suits are numbered with non-integer numbers, one suit uses a letter (623A), and three suit numbers are used twice (468, 1031, and 2407). Thirty-nine suit numbers are not used at all. The initial complaints of these suits were generally filed during the years 1863 to 1879.
    The original court papers of both the Old and New Series of records are housed at the California State Archives in Sacramento. Microfilm copies of these original court papers are available at the Archived Records Division of the Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa. The Old and New Series District Court suits concern a wide variety of topics, ranging from simple breach of contract and insolvency cases to defamation of character, slander, embezzlement, divorce, and even murder cases.
    The Complaints in Equity Series records comprise 768 District Court suits numbered 1 through 731 and concern non-payment of taxes (both State and County) on land in Sonoma County. One Complaints in Equity Series suit is numbered with a non-integer number (502½), thirty-eight suit numbers are used twice (546-548, 635-649, and 660-679), and two suit numbers are not used at all (272 and 307). The initial complaints of these suits were generally filed during the years 1864 to 1872. The original court papers of this series are housed at the Sonoma County Archives in Santa Rosa. Microfilm copies of these original court papers are available at the Archived Records Division of the Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa.
    (Index to District Court records of Sonoma County, 1850-1879. Berwyn Hights, Md. Heritage Books, 2016; pages v-vi)
    Note:
    Some volumes include entries for cases heard in Superior Court following the district court abolition: Docket book (includes entries for 1880) and Index (includes entries for 1880-1946).

    Additional Guides

    The Sonoma County Genearlogical Society has published an expanded guide to this collection: Index to District Court records of Sonoma County, 1850-1879. Berwyn Hights, Md. : Heritage Books, 2016. Compiled by Sonoma County Genealogical Society.

    Court History

    District Courts established by the 1849 California State Constitution

    The first Constitution of California was written by the forty-eight delegates of the 1849 California State Constitutional Convention meeting at Colton Hall in Monterey during the months of September and October 1849. It was signed by the delegates on 13 October 1849 and ratified by the people of California in an election held a month later on 13 November 1849. Under this constitution the judicial department of California was to consist of a Supreme Court, District Courts, County Courts, Justices of the Peace, and such municipal and other inferior courts the legislature may establish as may be deemed necessary.
    The District Courts were given original jurisdiction in law and equity in all civil cases where the amount in dispute exceeded two hundred dollars, exclusive of interest. In all criminal cases not otherwise provided for, and in all issues of fact joined in the probate courts, their jurisdiction was unlimited.15 The California Legislature in “An Act Concerning Divorces” passed 25 March 1851 gave the District Courts exclusive jurisdiction to grant divorces from bed and board and from the bonds of matrimony.
    By the California State Constitution of 1849 California was to be divided by the first Legislature into a convenient number of districts subject to alteration from time to time as the public good required. The District Court judges were to be appointed by a joint vote of the Legislature at its first meeting and were to hold office for two years from the first day of January after their election. Their successors were to be elected by the qualified voters of their respective districts at the general election and hold their office for the term of six years.
    The first session of the California Legislature held at San Jose between 15 Dec 1849 and 22 April 1850 divided California into nine judicial districts by “An Act to organize the District Courts of the State of California” passed on 16 March 1850.18 Sonoma County was placed in the 7th judicial district as were the counties of Marin, Napa, Solano, and Mendocino, and it remained in the 7th judicial district until 29 March 1876 when the 22nd judicial district was created, composed of the counties of Sonoma, Mendocino, and Marin.

    District Courts abolished by the 1879 California State Constitution

    The delegates of the second California State Constitutional Convention of 1878-1879 produced a second California State Constitution that was adopted in Convention at Sacramento on 3 March 1879 and ratified by a vote of the People of the State of California on 7 May 1879. Article XXII, section 3 of this Constitution abolished all courts then existing, including the District Courts, except for the Justices’ and Police Courts, and Article VI, section 1 established a new judicial department composed of a Supreme Court, Superior Courts, Justices of the Peace, and such inferior Courts as the Legislature may establish in any incorporated city or town, or city and county. All records, books, papers, and proceedings from the abolished Courts were to be transferred to the new Courts on 1 January 1880.
    (Index to District Court records of Sonoma County, 1850-1879. Berwyn Hights, Md. Heritage Books, 2016; pages ix-x)

    Access Terms

    This Collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.

    Corporate Name:

    Sonoma County (Calif.). District Court (7th Judicial District)
    Sonoma County (Calif.). District Court (22nd Judicial District)

    Topical Term:

    Civil procedure -- California -- Sonoma County
    Court records -- California -- Sonoma County
    Courts -- California -- Sonoma County
    Criminal courts -- California -- Sonoma County
    Judgments -- California -- Sonoma County
    Tax liens -- California -- Sonoma County
    Taxation -- California -- Sonoma County

    Important Information for Users of the Collection

    Conditions Governing Access:

    Materials stored offsite, but collection is open to research. In many cases, further details on individual volumes can be found by calling staff at the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library. To view these materials, please call staff at 707 308-3212 to request they be brought from the Archives to the Library

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the Sonoma County Library. The Sonoma County Library has made this collection available and believes that the collection is in the Public Domain under the laws of the United States, but a determination was not made as to its copyright status under the copyright laws of other countries. The Collection may not be in the Public Domain under the laws of other countries. Preferred credit line is: Courtesy, the Sonoma County Library. Please see additional reproduction and reuse information at https://sonomalibrary.org/locations/sonoma-county-history-and-genealogy-library/order-photo

    Preferred Citation:

    Sonoma County District Court records, 1850-1946 (bulk: 1850-1879). SCG.00051, Sonoma County Archives, Sonoma County Library, Rohnert Park, California.

    Arrangement of Materials:

    Series. Arranged in three series and 16 subseries:
    Series I. I-01. Civil register, 1850-1859; I-02. Fee book and register, 1850-1863; I-03. Docket book, 1851-1866; I-04. Judgment book, 1855-1866; I-05. Minute book, 1857-1868; I-06. Calendar, 1857-1862; I-07. Index, 1859-1861; and I-08. Records, 1857-1859.
    Series II. I-02. Fee book and register, 1863-1878; I-03. Docket book, 1857-1880; I-04. Judgment book, 1866-1879; I-05. Minute book, 1869-1879; I-05. Calendar, 1877-1879; I-06. Index, 1859-1946; I-07. Register of tax suits, 1864-1871; I-08. Decree book A, 1864-1869
    Series III. Complaints in equity, 1864-1871

    Scope and Contents

    Official records