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Inventory of the Courts of Appeal Records
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Administrative History
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Courts of Appeal records
    Dates: 1904-2007
    Collection number: See series descriptions
    Creator: California. District Courts of Appeal
    Collection Size: 735 bound volumes 21,181.5 cubic feet
    Repository: California State Archives
    Sacramento, California
    Abstract: The California State Archives (SCA) collection contains records from all six appellate courts: San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento (created by election on November 8, 1904), Riverside/San Bernardino (Statutes 1929, c. 691), Fresno (Statutes 1961, c. 845) and most recently, San Jose (Statutes 1981, c. 959). The records consist primarily of appellate case files and registers of action.
    Physical location: California State Archives
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Courts of Appeal records, [ID number], California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.

    Acquisition Information

    The California State Archives chose to retain certain Courts of Appeal records because of their possible archival value after the records had been legally approved for destruction.

    Administrative History

    The Courts of Appeal were established by constitutional amendment in 1904 (Article VI, SCA 2). They are California's intermediate courts of review and have jurisdiction when superior courts have jurisdiction and in certain other cases prescribed by statute. They exercise mandatory review of any appealable order or judgment from a superior court, except in cases in which the death penalty is imposed, over which the Supreme Court exercises original mandatory jurisdiction. (Cal. Const., Art. VI, section 11) There is no constitutional right to an appeal and the Legislature has the power to determine and change the matters which are appealable. (Powers v. City of Richmond (1995) 10 Cal.4th 85, 108)
    The Constitution grants the legislature the authority to divide the State into districts each containing a court of appeal with one or more divisions (Cal. Const., Art. VI, section 3). California has six appellate districts each organized into at least one division (Gov. Code 69100). Each division is headed by a presiding justice and has two or more associate justices. Justices are appointed by the Governor after review by the Commission on Judicial Nominations. The Constitution requires that the Governor's appointment must be approved by the Commission on Judicial Appointments which consists of the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, and the presiding justice of the court of appeal of the affected district, or if there are 2 or more presiding justices, the one who has presided longest (Cal. Const., Art. VI, section 7). The Constitution prescribes a term in office of 12 years for justices of the Courts of Appeal, subject to retention by the public at the next general election following appointment and confirmation and at the conclusion of each term (Cal. Const., Art. VI, section 16).
    Appeals from superior court judgments in both criminal and civil cases must be decided on the merits of the case based upon the record on appeal. The Courts of Appeal do not hear testimony, retry the case or reconsider the factual findings of the judge or jury. They review the final judgment or appealable order for prejudicial errors of law. Decisions of the Courts of Appeal that determine a cause shall be in writing with the reasons stated. (Cal. Const., Art. VI, section 14)
    Courts of Appeal have original jurisdiction in habeas corpus, mandamus, certiorari and prohibition proceedings. In most writ proceedings, the court has discretion whether to decide the merits of the claims set forth in the petition.
    Decisions of the Courts of Appeal are subject to discretionary review by the California Supreme Court, however, the scope of review by the Supreme Court differs from that by the Courts of Appeal. The Court of Appeal's primary function is to review the trial courts judgment for legal error. The California Supreme Court's review on the other hand is to decide important legal questions and maintain statewide uniformity of decisions. In addition to review by the Supreme Court, the decisions of the Courts of Appeal are subject to certain types of review in the federal courts based upon United States Constitutional and statutory grounds.
    (Agency History from the Courts of Appeals website www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courts/courtsofappeal/, March 2005)

    Scope and Content

    The California State Archives (SCA) collection contains records from all six appellate courts: San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento (created by election on November 8, 1904), Riverside/San Bernardino (Statutes 1929, c. 691), Fresno (Statutes 1961, c. 845) and most recently, San Jose (Statutes 1981, c. 959). The records consist primarily of appellate case files and registers of action.
    To date the majority of court records are transferred to CSA from the California State Records Center, but only once the records have been approved for destruction by the courts. Appellate court records retention periods are determined by the Rules of Court established by the Judicial Council of California; generally, civil case files are kept 10 years and criminal case files 20 after the final decision. Once records are approved for destruction, CSA staff select records with possible archival value to be transferred to the State Archives.
    Sampling of Appellate court case files began in the 1980s when CSA staff evaluated the increased volume of each court case, the overall quantity created by each court, use of the records by patrons and storage capacity at CSA. The resulting sampling method, still currently used, includes every court case ending in "0" and "fat files" or cases over one cubic foot in size.
    Appellate court records are accessed by court division and docket number. The exception however involves the two of the earliest appellate court records that were re-arranged as part of a Works Projects Administration (WPA) project in the 1930s. Appellate court records from San Francisco and Sacramento were combined, renumbered and indexed. Indexes are arranged by both plaintiff and defendants name. Other exceptions include changed numbering systems, or overlapping numbering systems, as new court districts or divisions within the courts were added or changed. In such instances, the case name and an approximate time period will help staff retrieve the correct case file or register.


    The Courts of Appeal records are arranged by the district that created the records, then by divisions within those districts.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    California. District Courts of Appeal