Butte County Superior Court – Butte County Courthouse
The Butte County Superior Court is located in the historic Butte County Courthouse in downtown Oroville, California. As the trial court for Butte County, it handles all major civil litigation, criminal prosecutions, family law, probate, and other legal matters for the county. The courthouse building itself is an important local landmark dating back to the late 1800s.
History and Background of Butte County Superior Court
Butte County was established in 1850 as one of the original 27 counties in California. The Butte County Courthouse was constructed in Oroville between 1863-1865 to serve the fledgling county. The Romanesque revival style building was designed by architect N.D. Goodell and featured a domed clocktower.
Over the next century, the courthouse underwent several expansions and renovations to accommodate Butte County’s growing population. In the 1950s, a large annex building was added, tripling the size of the original courthouse. Further expansions in the 1960s and 1970s added more space for courtrooms, offices, and records storage.
Today, the Butte County Superior Court occupies both the historic 1865 courthouse and the adjoining modern annex. The court oversees a jurisdiction of over 220,000 residents across Butte County’s 1,677 square miles. In addition to the main courthouse in Oroville, there are two smaller branch courthouses located in Paradise and Chico.
Layout and Design of Butte County Courthouse Building
The Butte County Courthouse building consists of two adjoining sections – the original 1865 courthouse and the modern annex.
The 1865 courthouse is a stately two-story Romanesque structure made of brick and features a distinctive clocktower dome. This section contains several historic courtrooms ornately decorated with murals, millwork, and plaster detailing. Court administration offices are also located here.
The annex addition is larger but more utilitarian in design. It houses over a dozen modern courtrooms as well as the clerk’s office, the jury assembly room, and other court facilities. The annex also contains holding cells for in-custody defendants.
Connecting the two sections is a central hallway and lobby area with security screening stations. The building underwent accessibility renovations in the 1990s to add elevators, ramps, and other ADA compliant features.
Court Operations and Services at Butte County Superior Court
The Butte County Superior Court oversees a high volume caseload across all case types. The court hears over 30,000 new cases and conducts over 2,000 judicial proceedings per year on average.
The courthouse is staffed by over 100 employees including judicial officers, clerks, court reporters, investigators, mediators, administrators, and other personnel. It provides comprehensive services for legal professionals and self-represented litigants.
Operations include multiple courtrooms handling daily dockets, clerk case processing services, filing counters, records management, interpreter services, probation supervision, children’s waiting rooms, and other functions. The courthouse also offers interactive kiosks, online services, and an expansive law library.
Courtrooms and Judicial Officers at Butte County Superior Court
The Butte County Superior Court currently has 11 authorized judgeships as well as additional commissioners and temporary judges. The courtrooms and judicial assignments are divided up as follows:
Department Assignments for Judges
- Department 1 – Presiding Judge and direct calendar civil lawsuits
- Department 2 – Assistant Presiding Judge and felony criminal cases
- Department 3 – Felony criminal cases
- Department 4 – Felony criminal cases
- Department 5 – Misdemeanor criminal cases and appeals
- Department 6 – Family law cases
- Department 7 – Family law cases and adoptions
- Department 8 – Juvenile dependency and delinquency cases
- Department 9 – Civil litigation cases
- Department 10 – Probate and mental health cases
- Department 11 – Unified family court services and civil harassment cases
In addition, there are two court commissioners who handle traffic cases, small claims lawsuits, and uncontested procedings. Pro tem judges also fill in as needed.
Notable Judges and Rulings
The Butte County Superior Court has over 150 years of rich legal history. Some judges and cases of note include:
- Judge Joseph H. Rosenberg (1958-1982) – Longest serving judge in county history at 24 years on the bench. Known for his stern demeanor in the courtroom.
- _People v. Mitchell _(1982) – High profile murder trial prosecuted by future California Attorney General John Van de Kamp. Resulted in conviction and death penalty sentence.
- _Butte Environmental Council v. Butte County _(1985) – Landmark California environmental law case concerning CEQA and environmental impact reports.
- Johnson v. Butte County Sheriff (2002) – Civil rights case that resulted in major changes to county jail conditions and programs. Oversaw by Judge Sandra L. McLean.
Butte County is one of California’s original twenty-seven counties. It boasts a diverse landscape that includes agricultural lands, forests, rivers, lakes, foothills, and rugged mountains and canyons.
Judicial and Staff Details:
- The bench consists of eleven judges and two commissioners.
- The Court employs roughly one hundred support staff.
- The Honorable Kimberly Merrifield serves as the Court’s Presiding Judge.
- Mr. Sharif Elmallah is the Court Executive Officer.
Court Staff and Personnel
In addition to the judges and commissioners, the Butte County Superior Court employs over 100 staff members in various capacities:
- Court Executive Officer – Administers court operations, budget, and personnel matters.
- Court Clerks – Perform customer service, cashiering, filing, records management, and other clerical work.
- Court Reporters – Record and transcribe the official verbatim record of hearings and trials.
- Mediators & Facilitators – Assist with alternative dispute resolution programs.
- Investigators – Conduct investigations for child welfare, guardianship, and family law cases.
- Self-Help Center Staff – Provide legal aid and assistance to self-represented litigants.
- Interpreters – Provide language interpretation services for non-English speaking litigants.
- Probation Officers – Monitor convicted individuals sentenced to probation.
- Maintenance and Custodial Staff – Maintain courthouse facilities.
Filing Cases and Legal Proceedings at Butte County Superior Court
The Butte County Superior Court handles the following types of case filings and legal proceedings:
Civil Filings and Procedures
- Personal injury, property damage, contract disputes, wrongful death – cases over $25,000.
- Small Claims – cases under $10,000.
- Civil harassment restraining orders.
- Name change petitions.
Individuals represent themselves pro se or attorneys file on their client’s behalf. Filing fees apply based on case type and amount.
Criminal Filings and Procedures
- Felonies – murder, robbery, assault, fraud, sex crimes, drug offenses.
- Misdemeanors – DUIs, petty theft, minor drug charges.
- Traffic matters – speeding tickets, reckless driving, license suspensions.
The District Attorney’s office prosecutes cases. Defendants are entitled to public defender or private criminal defense attorney.
Family Law Filings and Procedures
- Divorce, child custody, visitation, child support.
- Guardianships and adoptions.
- Domestic violence/elder abuse restraining orders.
Family law matters have many self-represented litigants. Fee waivers are available for those who cannot afford filing fees.
Probate Filings and Procedures
- Wills and trusts.
- Estates of deceased individuals.
The court oversees distribution of assets from estates as well as guardianship of incapacitated adults.
Attorneys typically handle probate case filings, which require petitions and other specialized documents.
North Butte County Courthouse – Civil/Probate Division
The Civil/Probate Division at the North Butte County Courthouse in Chico handles a comprehensive range of judicial matters for the entire county. These include:
- Civil Matters: This covers Small Claims, Unlawful Detainer, and both Limited and Unlimited Civil cases.
- Probate Matters: The division takes care of Conservatorship, Estate, Guardianship, and Trust cases.
1775 Concord Avenue
Chico, CA 95928
- Civil Division Phone: (530) 532‑7009
- Probate Division Phone: (530) 532-7017
Resources and Information for Litigants and Attorneys
The Butte County Superior Court provides helpful resources for those involved in cases:
Online Services and Websites
Many services such as records requests and fee payments can be done online through the court’s website https://www.butte.courts.ca.gov/. The site also has forms, local rules, and FAQs.
Remote video appearances for hearings are also available by prior arrangement. Self-help videos explain different case types and procedures.
Self-Help and Mediation Services
The court has a Self-Help Center with workshops, information booths, and one-on-one assistance. Volunteer attorneys provide free legal advice on certain days.
Mediation services are available for child custody disputes and other types of family law and civil cases. Mediators help parties negotiate agreements.
Contact Information and Hours of Operation
Location: Northern California, about 120 miles northeast of San Francisco.
Size: Approximately 1,676 square miles, spanning from the Sacramento River to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The Butte County Superior Court is located at 1 Court Street in Oroville, CA.
- North Butte County Courthouse
- Address: 1775 Concord Avenue, Chico, CA 95928
- Butte County Courthouse
- Address: One Court Street, Oroville, CA 95965-3303
Butte County Superior Court Phone: (530) 532-7002.
Butte County Courthouse Counter hours are 8am to 3pm on weekdays, but closed during the lunch hour of 12-1pm. Court hearings are conducted 8am to 4pm.
The Butte County Courthouse website is www.buttecourt.ca.gov and has detailed information on services, fees, local rules, and more.
Searching Butte County Superior Court Records
Butte County Superior Court records can be searched online or through an in-person visit to the courthouse clerk’s office.
Butte County Superior Court Online Case Search
The Butte County Superior Court website provides an online case access system to search and view civil, criminal, probate, and family law cases. Users can search by party name, case number, or attorney.
Basic case details are provided including future hearing dates, party information, charges filed, and case documents. There is no fee to search and view limited case details online.
In-Person Record Lookup
To conduct a more thorough record search, you can visit the Butte County Courthouse clerk’s office in person. This allows you to request full case files and documents for review and copying.
There are fees associated with retrieving files and making copies. You will need to fill out a request form with information on the specific case or documents you need. Valid ID is required.
Understanding Butte County Superior Court Dockets
Butte County Superior Court organizes cases using specific dockets based on the type of matter involved. The main dockets include civil, criminal, probate, and family law.
The civil docket contains all non-criminal lawsuits filed in Butte County Superior Court. Typical cases involve contract disputes, personal injury claims, malpractice suits, and real estate cases. Accessing the civil docket allows you to search for a specific civil case and view upcoming hearing schedules.
This docket covers all criminal prosecutions filed in Butte County. Typical cases include DUI charges, theft, assault, and other misdemeanors or felonies. The criminal docket provides case details like charges filed, future hearing dates, and disposition of the case.
Probate cases involve proceedings related to wills and estates of deceased persons. The probate docket allows you to access details on last will filings, estate administrations, and conservatorships for Butte County residents.
Interpreting Butte County Superior Court Calendars
Butte County Superior Court organizes daily court schedules using printed calendars for different types of matters and proceedings.
This calendar covers initial arraignment hearings for criminal cases. At arraignments, defendants are formally charged and enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Arraignment calendars list all cases set for first appearances before a judge on a given day.
Trial calendars list criminal and civil cases scheduled for contested trials before a judge or jury. The calendar provides case details and trial start times to allow for coordination of courtroom assignments.
General law and motion hearings for civil cases are scheduled on the hearing calendar. Types of hearings include motions to dismiss, summary judgment hearings, status conferences, and procedural disputes.
Checking the calendars allows you to find case schedules before visiting court in person to observe proceedings. Calendars are posted online and available at the courthouse.
Accessing Butte County Jury Services
Butte County Superior Court manages the process for empaneling juries to hear civil and criminal trials. Interacting with jury services may involve receiving a summons, serving as a juror, or looking up verdict forms.
Residents of Butte County may receive a jury summons in the mail. This requires you to report for potential jury duty on the date listed. Exemptions can be requested in limited cases. Failing to appear after being summoned can result in fines or penalties.
If selected, jury duty requires listening to trial evidence and arguments before deliberating on a verdict as instructed by the judge. Employers are required to excuse employees for jury service. Compensation is provided for time spent serving.
Jury verdict forms become public record after a trial concludes. The clerk’s office can provide access to review verdict forms that contain details on the jury’s findings and any award damages.
The Butte County Courthouse has a rich history dating back to California’s early days. The building blends classic 19th century architecture with modern expansions. Inside, a bustling superior court oversees county cases with professionalism and care. While navigating the legal system can be intimidating, the court provides assistance to ensure everyone receives fair access to justice.
Q: What is the dress code for court?
A: Dress should be professional and respectful. No shorts, ripped jeans, revealing clothes, or hats allowed in the courtroom.
Q: Can I bring my cell phone or camera?
A: No electronic devices like phones or cameras are allowed through security. Lockers are available to store prohibited items.
Q: What forms of payment does the court accept?
A: The court accepts cash, personal check, cashier’s check, and credit/debit cards. Certain fees can also be paid online.
Q: Where can I validate my parking?
A: Parking validation is available at the clerk’s office when you present your parking ticket. Metered street parking is also available near the courthouse.
Q: Are food and drinks allowed in the court building?
A: Outside food and beverages are prohibited. Vending machines with snacks and drinks are available in the courthouse lobby area.
What are the main locations for Butte County Superior Court?
A: The main courthouse is in Oroville with branches in Chico and Paradise. Check hours and services available at each.
Q: How much does it cost to search or copy a court file?
A: Online case lookups are free but limited. Retrieving physical files in person incurs retrieval fees and copy charges per page.
Q: Where can I find the daily court calendar listings?
A: Calendars are posted on the court website and available at the courthouse clerk’s office.
Q: Who do I contact about receiving a jury summons?
A: Communicate with the Jury Commissioner’s Office about summons questions, exemptions, or rescheduling if necessary.