District Court (Fifth District : Washington County) Civil case files
These records are housed in the Utah State Archives' permanent storage room.
An agency history is available.
Scope and Content
These case files from the Fifth District Court in Washington County document the legal process and the administration of justice in conjunction with a civil proceeding for the determination of a controversy between parties wherein rights are enforced or protected, or wrongs are prevented or redressed. Included are all cases which cannot legally be called "criminal cases." Records and documents pertaining to a particular action are filed together by the court clerk, who is required by the Rules of Civil Procedure to file pleadings and other legal papers. Collectively they constitute the case file.
A civil action commences with the filing of a complaint with the court or by service to the defendant of a summons together with a copy of the complaint. A unique case number is assigned by the court when the papers are filed with the clerk. The case file for a particular action includes the original complaint or summons together with all legal papers subsequently filed in connection with the court proceeding through disposition or dismissal. Included are such documents as: depositions (or written testimony), demurrers (which are pleas for the dismissal of a lawsuit on the grounds that even if the statements of the opposition are true, they do not sustain the claim), interrogatories (a pretrial discovery tool in which written questions are propounded by one party and served to the adversary, who must answer by written replies made under oath), answers, counter claims, replies, motions, petitions, affidavits (written statements made under oath before an officer of the court, notary public, or other authorized person), stipulations (an agreement between attorneys that concerns business before a court and is designed to simplify, shorten, or settle litigation and save costs), exhibit documents (written contracts, bills, receipts, etc.), notices, objections, citations, sheriff's certificates, judge's orders and rulings, judge's instructions to the jury, judge's findings of fact and conclusions of law, final decrees, judgments, and executions (the process of carrying into effect a court's judgment, decree, or order).
Demurrers, pleas, and exceptions for insufficiency were abolished in 1953. Transcripts (an official and certified copy of what transpired in court or at an out-of-court deposition) and exhibits (items of real evidence) are not included in the case files.
Petitions for divorce are the predominant type of action in the civil case files. Suits to recover money are also common. These actions arise out of failure to honor promissory notes or other contract terms and non- payment of rent, lease payments, and court-ordered judgments. Attempts by plaintiffs to recover medical costs and lost income arising out of personal injury cases resulting from alleged carelessness or neglect appear frequently. These include traffic mishaps or accidents involving neighbors, employees, or business customers. Property cases include disputed ownership, damage, and contested improvements.
Legal actions include voluntary withdrawal or dissolution of corporations as well as petitions for a writ of habeas corpus (a court order requiring that a prisoner be brought before a judge to decide the legality of his detention or imprisonment). Court business (grand jury lists and reports, orders summoning persons to serve as jurors, various writs, etc.) have also been assigned civil case numbers.
According to statute, the district court has jurisdiction in all civil matters not excepted by the state constitution and not prohibited by law. During each calendar year the court is required to hold at least three terms at the county seat of each county within the district. The county clerk in each county serves as ex- officio clerk to the court and is responsible for maintaining the case files for actions arising in that county.
Responsibility for cases involving minimal monetary claims was reassigned to the newly created small claims departments of inferior courts in 1933. When inferior courts have original jurisdiction, the district court is limited to hearing appeals. Included are violations of city and town ordinances, as well as minor traffic laws, where a City Court or Justice of the Peace Court is established. Upon receipt of an appeal, the district court conducts a complete retrial of the case.
Numerical by case number.
Civil registers of actions from the District Court (Fifth District : Washington County), Series 18193, contain alphabetical indexes at the beginning of each individual volume which can be used to identify the case file numbers needed to access this series.
Register of actions from the District Court (Fifth District : Washington County), Series 23737, is a register for criminal and probate cases as well as civil cases from 1895-1899.
Index to civil and criminal actions from the District Court (Fifth District : Washington County), Series 26247, s an index for civil and criminal cases from 1896-1937. The researcher should also consult the holdings of the First and Second District Courts, and of the Washington County Probate Court, for civil case records from Washington County during the territorial period
Judgment record books from the District Court (Fifth District : Washington County), Series 26330, contains the entire case file documented in the judgments recorded in this series.
All case files created between 1896 and 1955 were transferred to the Utah State Archives in 2007. For access to case files post-1955 researchers should contact the clerk of the Fifth District Court in Washington County.
This series is available on microfilm.
This series is classified as Public.
Cite the Utah State Archives and Records Service, the creating agency name, the series title, and the series number.
Gaps in Series
In December 2009 case file 281 was found in the court and was mailed to the State Archives. The case file has been added to the physical holdings but has not been microfilmed.
Gaps in Series
In July 2010 the court mailed three boxes to the State Archives containing assorted water rights material covering 1900 to 1935. The material has been added to the physical holdings but has not been microfilmed.
This series was archivally processed by Jim Kichas and Emily Gurr in December 2007 as part of a NHPRC grant project designed to preserve the historic records of Utah's Fifth District Courts.
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Page Last Updated October 18, 2012.