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King County Archives

A repository of county government records
King County Archives
1215 E. Fir St.
Building A
Seattle, WA 98122

206-296-1538
archives@kingcounty.gov

Monday - Friday
9:00 am - 4:00 pm

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Court and Legal Records

 
Superior Court records

At statehood (1889), the Washington State Constitution created the state judicial system and designated the trial court of general and unlimited jurisdiction as the Superior Court. In King County it succeeded the federal Third Territorial District Court (1853-1889).

In general, Superior Court records are considered permanent and are retained by the court. To access most Superior Court indexes and case files 1854-present, please contact the Superior Court Clerk at 206-296-9300 (dial "9" to speak to a person) or clerksofficecustomerservice@kingcounty.gov.

Some historical Superior Court records and indexes are held by other agencies.  Please review the lists below:

The following records are held by the King County Archives:

Index of Licenses of Physicians, Optometrists, Chiropodists and Midwives, 1890-1980
This series contains an index to medical and professional licenses issued by the state and presented to the county clerk (Superior Court clerk) for registration as a prerequisite to practice in King County. These records show the name of the licensee, nature of the license, license number, date of issue, date of filing, whether an original, certified copy or a renewal, and volume and page number if that information was recorded. These records are arranged alphabetically by surname of licensee.

Juvenile Court annual reports, 1911-1974
Washington's superior courts were granted original jurisdiction over all juvenile cases in 1905. This series is composed of annual narrative and statistical reports of the programs and activities of King County's juvenile court from 1911 to 1974. During this period, activities of the court included both its legal functions and its social work with delinquent and dependent youth and their families. Early reports (1911-1930) stress the court's social work by including special reports and commentaries on causative pathologies, case studies, and parental and governmental responsibilities to youth. A separate report section documented activities of the Mothers' Pension Department (1913-1937), which dispersed cash and material assistance to female-headed families with dependent children prior to the federalization of this program. Reports from this period are frequently illustrated with photographs of court and custodial facilities, building plans (1915) and personnel. No reports were apparently printed for the years 1931-1935, but statistical summaries for this period are present. Between 1936 and 1958, reports primarily consisted of tabulated statistics. In the 1940s, data for several years were sometimes combined into one report; no report was published for 1953. Beginning in 1959, court statistics were again accompanied by narrative commentary, and sometimes by photographs and graphics. The expansion of the Youth Service Center in Seattle's Central Area and the role of the Juvenile Court in the relocation of neighborhood residents are reflected in reports from the 1960s. The court's social work programs were largely transferred to County Executive departments after 1974.

The following records are held by the Puget Sound [state] Regional Archives (external link):

Civil case files, 1853-1983
Civil case indexes, 1890-1892
Criminal case files, 1889-1972
Criminal index, 1890-1977
Probate case files, 1854-1961
Probate case files index, 1854-1977
Juvenile index, 1959-1978
Mental illness case files, 1918-1963
Mother's Pension case files, 1913-1937
Naturalization case files, 1868-1927
Naturalization index, 1906-1928
General indexes (defendant), 1890-1976
General indexes (plaintiff), 1888-1975

The Puget Sound Regional Archives holds additional records from the King County Superior Court. Please contact the Puget Sound Regional Archives (external link) for more information about these records: dockets, journals, minutes, calendars, exhibits, cash accounting records, coroner's inquest transcripts (1899-1955), and many others.

 
District Court records
Justice courts were created by the Oregon Organic Act of 1848, and were incorporated into the county judicial structure when King County was created in 1852. The Washington State Justice Court Act of 1961 combined the name and activities of the Justice Court with the District Court. In 1962, King County adopted this change through Commissioners' Resolution 24130.

The following records are held by the King County Archives:

Criminal Index, Seattle district, 1926-1963
Indexes kept by judge. Contains name, charge, docket number and date. In some volumes the charge is not listed. Inside front covers of certain volumes contain listings of bond amounts for certain crimes.

Liquor search docket, Seattle district, 1938-1942
Warrants issued by Judge Guy B. Knott to search for liquor on commercial premises. Record information includes name of defendant (often "John Doe"), address of premises or description of their location when no address is available, and name of person filing charges. Information relating to the scope and extent of search may also be present. Many sites searched were in the Pioneer Square or Jackson Street area of Seattle. Earlier liquor search dockets (1923-1926) are held at the Puget Sound [state] Regional Archives (external link) in Bellevue.

Small claims dockets, Seattle Division, 1979-1985
Dockets of the Small Claims Court for Seattle Division of the District Court. Include name of defendant and plaintiff, claim by plaintiff, judgment and amount awarded. Filed by case number.

The following records are held by the Puget Sound Regional Archives (external link):

District Court: These records include trial calendars, indexes and registries (date span 1859-1969) and records from the Airport, Bellevue, Federal Way, and Shoreline districts (date span 1945-1980; not all records are present for all districts for all years).

Justice Court : These records include calendars, case files and dockets (date span 1923-1961). Records are available for the following Justice Court precincts: Ballard, Burton, Cherry Valley, Duwamish, Georgetown, Issaquah, North Bend, Novelty, Rainier, Riverton Heights, Roscommon, Salmon Bay, Seattle, Skykomish, Slaughter, South Park, South Seattle, Sprague, Tukwila, Van Buren, Wabash, and Yesler (date span 1871-1977; not all records are present for all precincts for all years).

 
Prosecuting Attorney records
Please contact the King County Archives for information about the following records:

Criminal dockets, 1906-1950, 1958-1959
Dockets for cases brought against citizens by the Prosecuting Attorney, including appeals from cases heard in Justice Court. Information includes name, charge, attorney for the defendant, Superior Court cause number, formal complaint, pleading, judgment, trial, motions, and verdict. Later volumes include the bond amount. Earlier volumes have the initials of the deputy prosecutor and the judge who heard the case written on the docket with their full names appearing on the inside front cover. Later the names of both appear in full on the dockets.

Annual reports, 1919-1992
These reports provide case statistics and some additional narrative. Reports are not present for all years.

Road Engineer court case work records, 1937-1941
This record contains two volumes of bound data sheets summarizing work done by the county Road Engineer's office in support of the county Prosecuting Attorney. Data sheets have been bound in sequential numerical order, one court case or other action per sheet. Record information may state case identifiers; names of parties, attorneys and presiding judge; special witnesses employed by the county; and summaries of the nature of the case and of the work done by the Road Engineer. A hand-sketched preliminary location map or site plan often accompanies the text; final versions of the sketches were submitted in court as evidence. Sketched maps (some in colored pencil) include maps of contested farm, industrial and storm water drainages; sections of roads, trails and highways; street intersections; and floor plans of roadhouses and a "Hooverville" shack. Each volume contains a list of names of plaintiffs or other principal parties.

 
Other Sources of Historical Court and Legal Records
Bankruptcy records

Bankruptcy case files, 1870-1877
The series includes case files for eleven bankruptcy cases from the 1870s. The cases were administered under the Bankruptcy Act of 1867 (repealed 1878). Records include documents such as petitions for adjudication of bankruptcy, warrants, affidavits of publication, schedules, orders to show cause by creditors, petitions for discharge, fee records, and register's minutes. Several case files appear to be incomplete. Please contact the King County Archives for further information.

Bankruptcy files (Washington State), 1889-1950
National Archives and Records Administration (external link), Pacific Alaska Region, Seattle

Bankruptcy records after 1950
U.S. Bankruptcy Court (external link)
Western Washington District
700 Stewart Street, Room 6301
Seattle, WA 98101-1290
Phone: (206) 370-5200
Access to electronic files (PACER) (external link)

Corporation filings

Corporations currently operating in Washington State:

Office of the Secretary of State
Corporations Division (external link)
801 Capitol Way South
PO Box 40234
Olympia, WA 98504-0234
(360) 753-7115
Corporations: Registration Data Search (external link)

Historical statewide corporation filings, 1869-1990:

Washington State Archives (external link)

Historical King County corporation filings, 1869-1971:

Puget Sound Regional Archives (external link)

Name change records

Wills

Wills filed with probate case files by the executor or administrator of the will after the death of the individual who made the will:
King County Superior Court Clerk


Wills of living individuals filed in the Will Repository, (2004-present only):
King County Superior Court Clerk

Recorded wills (wills are usually not recorded, but citizens have always had the option to do so):
King County Archives