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Legal Research Subject Guide

California Court System

California Court System

The vast majority of cases in the California courts begins in one of the 58 Superior or Trial courts — located in each of the state's 58 counties. With more than 450 locations, these courts hear both civil and criminal cases, as well as family, probate, and juvenile cases. These courts are often the sites of the "media circus" cases (O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, Dr. Conrad Murray, etc.). It is important to note that the decisions of these courts are not published in the legal case reporters.

The next level of judicial authority within the state's judicial branch resides with the Courts of Appeal. Most of the cases that come before the Courts of Appeal involve the review of a superior court decision that is being contested by a party to the case. The state is divided geographically into six appellate districts, each containing a Courts of Appeal.

The California Supreme Court serves as the highest court in the state, and has discretion to review decisions of the Court of Appeal in order to settle important questions of law and to resolve conflicts among the Courts of Appeal. The court also must review the appeal in any case in which a trial court has imposed a judgment of death.

For further information on the California State Court System, see the California Courts website.