Copying Court Documents

August 10, 2023


If you are a judgment enforcer, you might go to the courthouse and ask the clerk; or use a court computer(s) to look up judgment cases and then ask the clerk to pull records for you. The court clerk will make copies for you for (e.g., 50 cents per page), and that adds up, and sometimes you have to wait in line too. It sure would be more time and cost effective if you could use a camera or a scanner.

This article describes how things work in California, your mileage may vary. In most courthouses, cameras and scanners are prohibited. If they catch you using one, they may ask you to leave. I am a Judgment Broker, not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.

Here are the relevant parts of the California Rules of the Court, section 10.500:

e) Public access
(1)The Judicial Council intends by this rule to implement Government Code section 68106.2(g), added by Senate Bill X4 13 (Stats. 2009-10, 4th Ex. Session, chapter 22), which requires adoption of rules of court that provide public access to non-deliberative and non-adjudicative court records, budget and management information.

(A)A judicial branch entity must allow inspection and copying of judicial administrative records unless the records are exempt from disclosure under this rule or by law.

And, California Government Code Section 70627:

The fees collected under this section shall be distributed to the court in which they were collected.

(a) The clerk of the court shall charge fifty cents ($0.50) per page to cover the cost of preparing copies of any record, proceeding, or paper on file in the clerk’s office.

(b) For comparing with the original on file in the office of the clerk of any court, the copy of any paper, record, or proceeding prepared by another and presented for the clerk’s certificate, the fee is one dollar ($1) per page, in addition to the fee for the certificate.

(c) The fee for a search of records or files conducted by a court employee that requires more than 10 minutes is fifteen dollars ($15) for each search.

Unless you are a registered photocopier, your access to see the files is permitted, but to copy them (in any fashion) usually requires the court clerk to do the copying at the fees listed above.

Most California court clerks use California Rules of Court (CRC) 1.150 to ban cameras, and most courts ban scanners too. In addition to CRC 1.150, most courts have local rules forbidding cameras in any area the courthouse, not just the courtrooms.

However it is worth introducing yourself to the court clerks when they are not busy. In some courts, polite enforcers have been able to get the clerk’s office to concede that a hand scanner is acceptable, by politely discussing the clerk’s concerns. A hhand scanner is not a camera, and because the files would not be disassembled, some clerks allow scanning.

What if the court clerks do not permit scanners or cell phone cameras to be used? Some enforcers bring their laptop computers into the clerk’s department and use a text editor, a database, or a spreadsheet to do data entry at the courthouse. If you do not have a laptop, these five steps will be helpful:

1) Check to see if the ROAs (register of actions) are online before you go to the courthouse. Many courthouses have these online now, so you can go to their web site and search case information; however usually they do not show the specific paperwork. You can search records by name or case number.

2) See what computer access for looking up judgments is available at the courthouse.

3) Determine where the actual physical judgment records are, and how to access them.

4) Determine the court case numbering. Figure out how to use that numbering to go back two or more years. For example: 12-SC45503 is today. Try going back to 10-SC45503, etc. You can check these by using the ROA, and search records prior to going to courts, find the ones you want to view; and ask for them specifically at the clerk’s counter.

5) To learn how your court decides issues; determine when the post-judgment hearings are held for motions to vacate, motions to pay in installments, claims of exemption, third-party claims, etc.

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