Last updated: October 14, 2013
Not quite Los Angeles yet not quite San Diego, Orange County blends the best of Southern California. Orange County is one of the smallest and most densely populated regions of California, but it also contains "Surf City, U.S.A." and possibly the world’s prettiest coastline (not to mention Disneyland!).
As a major hub of business and technology, it should be no surprise that Orange County is at the forefront of incorporating Internet convenience to increase public access to the justice system. Most civil filings must be completed electronically, and the County provides complete access to case information online. Their website also contains a generous Self-Help Center which could help you research your particular issue.
Just as Orange County does not boast a single dominant urban center, its courthouses are numerous and scattered. Knowing which court is appropriate for your particular issue and location is critical to your success, so here is a useful guide to the Orange County court system.
Note:The Central Justice Centers handles traffic violations, criminal prosecutions, civil lawsuits and small claims matters. It serves the cities of Orange, Santa Ana, Tustin, Villa Park, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Westminster. This facility offers free Wi-Fi and cubicle access. However, the cafeteria gets packed around lunch time and the food is overpriced and atrocious; bring your own lunch or try some tasty Venezuelan food just a ten minute walk away.
Parking: You can park one block west of the courthouse for free as long as it's not a Tuesday (due to street cleaning), while nearby lots are $4-$5.
Note: The North Justice Center handles traffic violations, criminal prosecutions, limited civil and small claims matters. It serves the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton , La Habra , La Palma, Los Alamitos, Placentia, Stanton and Yorba Linda. This facility has free W-Fi access. For a stress break, there are several verdant walking trails in the nearby area.
Parking: Plenty of free parking within walking distance.
Note: The West Justice Center handles traffic and criminal matters. It serves the cities of Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, Stanton and Westminster. This facility has free Wi-Fi. If you only need to pay for a ticket, there are windows located outside with relatively quick moving lines.
Parking: Free parking is available across the street from the courthouse next to the library, at the corner of 13th Street and All American Way.
Note: The Newport Beach Harbor Justice Center exclusively handles traffic and criminal matters. It serves the cities Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine, and all the cities in South County. This facility does not have a cafeteria, but there is a Burger King across the street.
Parking: Unlike most other courthouses, the Harbor Justice Center offers plentiful free parking.
Note: The Lamoreaux Justice Center handles Juvenile matters, family law, probate, mental health, domestic violence and elder/dependent adult restraining orders. The Orange County Superior Court Self-Help Center is located inside this facility, as is Family Court Services, which provides free mediation to work with families in an effort to resolve issues related to the custody of their children. Bella's Kitchen is a cash-only cafeteria inside the facility, but try heading to the Block across the street for better dining options.
Parking: Parking is rough at the Lamoreaux Justice Center. There is a parking structure nearby, but it is expensive and you should expect long lines to enter; get here early. Alternatively, there is parking across the street at the Outlets in Orange Mall, but it's a bit of a hike to the courthouse.
Note: The Community Court specializes in addressing the underlying issues present in the lives of people who come before the court on criminal, juvenile, or dependency matters. They offer comprehensive services to help offenders who are mentally ill, addicted or homeless.
Note: The Civil Complex Center only handles complex civil lawsuits, which are cases that require extra judicial management. These cases are generally in areas such as antitrust, securities, construction defects, toxic torts, mass torts and class actions.
Note: Department CJ1 is actually located inside the Men's Central Jail Complex. It handles select misdemeanor and felony criminal matters. As this is a full security facility, expect to be searched upon entering; and please leave any potential weapons at home.
Note: The Court of Appeals handles exclusively appellate work, or cases that have already been decided but one of the parties disagrees with the outcome. The Fourth District encompasses Orange County, San Diego and Riverside. Unlike most other Districts, the Fourth District divides itself into three geographic Divisions, and Division Three has jurisdiction over Orange County. Try using their Self-Help website for an overview of appellate procedure.
Note: The Central District of California encompasses most counties from San Luis Obispo to Orange County. This gorgeous courthouse deals exclusively with federal cases. Make sure you bring a government issued ID if you want to get inside.