Last updated: October 18, 2013
As the California state capital of California, "America's Most Diverse City" is home to over 2.5 million residents. California's Gold Rush was sparked at Sutter's Fort, which still stands near Old Sacramento to this day. We owe our statehood to this golden city, but Sac-Town is more than its history: residents live just a day trip away from the San Francisco night life and some of the world's premier ski resorts. Add in top tier universities Sac-State and U.C. Davis and you have a city that truly has something for everyone.
Like the city itself, the Sacramento court system is steeped in tradition. Fortunately, most courthouses are clustered around downtown Sacramento. Unlike most other cities, the Sacramento courthouses are divided by subject matter rather than geography; one court handles civil matters, another family law, another juvenile cases, and so on. Knowing which court is appropriate for your particular issue is critical to your success, so here is a useful guide to some of the key courthouses in Sacramento.
Good to know: The Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse is the primary trial court in Sacramento County for both civil and criminal cases. They handle all types of civil lawsuits except unlawful detainer, small claims and family law, and most criminal matters, excluding pretrial, arraignment and DUIs. Wondering about the status of your case? Save yourself time by searching online. Or browse their list of local forms to find one appropriate for your case. There is a cafeteria located on the sixth floor, but head three blocks south to the K Street Mall for more variety. There are public lots and metered parking nearby; but beware, the meters only accept quarters. There are a couple nearby branches that handle specific aspects of civil actions:
Civil Law and Motion Courts
800 9th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Good to know: Departments 53 and 54 hear motions for civil lawsuits, along with petitions for name change, emancipation of minors and certain probate matters.
Department 58 & 59
520 9th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Good to know: Department 58 and 59 are civil settlement courts. They handle pre-trial conferences and alternative dispute resolution.
Good to know: As its name suggests, the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse handles family law cases such as dissolutions, probate and juvenile dependency. Be sure to arrive early if you don’t have an appointment, as you need to request a service ticket number from the Information Booth before 3:00 p.m. This court houses the family law self-help center, which is open weekdays except Friday. Paid parking is available behind the courthouse, but make sure you visit the ATM first because it is cash-only.
Good to know: The Carol Miller Justice Center hears traffic, small claims worth $10,000 or less and landlord-tenant cases worth less than $25,000. Before you sue learn more about the small claims process. Instead of wasting time in line try paying your traffic citation online instead. Paid public parking is available in the lot in front of the court.
Good to know: The B.T. Collins Juvenile Justice Center handles all matters related to juvenile delinquency, which is when minors commit criminal offenses. There are some decent restaurants on Bradshaw Rd., just north of Kiefer. Remarkably, parking is free for those with business with the Juvenile Justice Center.
Good to know: The Sacramento County Main Jail houses four courtrooms that handle misdemeanor and felony pretrial matters, such as arraignments. They also serve as specialist domestic violence and drug courts for specific cases. You have to walk through the Main Jail entrance to access these courtrooms.
Good to know: The 3rd District of California encompasses 23 counties in northeastern California. This court reviews decisions by Superior Court judges, which are, in turn, reviewed by the California Supreme Court in San Francisco. No cases reach the Court of Appeal until they have been resolved by a trial court. Bone up on procedure with their self-help manual before appealing your case, or just browse their FAQs.
Good to know: The Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse houses the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The Eastern District of California is huge, extending from the Oregon border down to Bakersfield. The Sacramento branch handles federal matters arising from 23 counties across northeastern California. This courthouse handles exclusively federal matters at the trial level.