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Apr 8,2017

Butte County Superior Court History

Posted by Maria J. Amaya on Apr 8,2017

 

Role of the Butte County Superior Court

Like other superior courts, the Butte County Superior Court is a state court with local general jurisdiction. These courts hear cases involving criminal charges, civil lawsuits, traffic violations, family and juvenile matters. Above the superior courts are six appellate divisions in which they hear appeals from lower court decisions from every county in the state of California. The current California Constitution requires each of the 58 counties in California to have a superior court. Above the superior courts are the California Courts of Appeal and then the state Supreme Court.

Founding of the Superior Courts

The Superior Courts came about as part of the state’s second constitution in 1879. Prior to the foundation of these county courts, there were multi-county district courts that supervised county courts and Justice of the Peace Courts.  Initially, Butte County court heard simple cases involving forcible entry and detainer in its early years. Later, it began to use a grand jury to inquire into criminal offenses except for cases alleging treason, murder and manslaughter.

Recent History

In 1998, the state constitution was amended so that judges in each county would be able to decide whether to keep municipal or justice courts. By the year 2001, all California counties had consolidated these inferior courts into superior courts.

Butte County Superior Court Judges

Under California law, superior court judges hold an elected position for six years. Any vacancies are filled by the governor’s appointment. When the court was first established, judges served four-year terms. Charles Lott, Warren Sexton and Patrick Hundley were some of the first judges to preside over the Butte County Superior Court. To become a superior court judge, an applicant must have been barred with the State Bar of California for a minimum of ten years.

Specialization of Superior Courts

Some of the state’s larger superior courts are divided into specializations, such as cases involving moving violations, mental health cases, civil, small claims, family, juvenile, complex litigation and probate.

Factual Tidbits

A fun fact about California’s superior courts is that they traditionally did not own their own buildings and the state was not even required by law to provide buildings for this purpose. County governments were expected to provide these buildings and establish a budget for these courts. Superior court cases are not usually included in legal reporters and decisions from the court are usually made pursuant to a judge signing an order that one of the parties has prepared. If a party petitions the appellate court for a writ of mandamus, the title of the case is the petitioner v. Superior Court with the real party in interest being specified below that. Appellate divisions of superior courts are not considered separate courts in California.

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