Last updated: December 13, 2013
The Oregon court system is broken into 27 geographic regions called judicial districts; Eugene and all of Lane County lay within the 2nd Judicial District. Each district contains a state-funded Circuit Court that has general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, but both Lane County and Eugene have opted to establish limited jurisdiction local courts to ease the Circuit Court’s docket by handling smaller or routine matters. Furthermore, the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, both located in Salem, review lower court decisions for judicial error. Finally, Eugene has a federal courthouse as well. To help you make sense of the confusing court situation, FindLaw has created this guide to the key courthouses in Eugene.
Good to know: The Circuit Court is Oregon’s court of general jurisdiction. This means that they can hear all civil and criminal cases, including civil lawsuits, probate issues, family law cases and juvenile matters. They also run a small claims division for cases where the amount in controversy is less than $10,000. Check out their list of useful forms to find the proper one if you are representing yourself, or read up on the small claims process from the Oregon Bar Association.
Good to know: You can think of Justice Court as the Circuit Court’s little brother. They have jurisdiction over the prosecution of misdemeanor offenses and infractions. Lane County Justice Courts typically handle violations of traffic, boating and wildlife violations, truancy, and Lane County Code violations such as animal regulation, parks, Lane ESD and waste management complaints. They also have civil jurisdiction over claims where the damages claimed do not exceed $7,500.
Good to know: The Eugene Municipal Court has jurisdiction over city ordinance violations. Since the City of Eugene has adopted the entire Oregon Vehicle Code into ordinance, most of the action comes in the form of traffic court. Try paying your tickets online to save time (and avoid another ticket!).
Good to know: The Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse houses a branch of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. This branch services Benton, Coos, Deschutes, Douglas, Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Marion Counties. They handle exclusively federal cases at the trial level here. You must bring a photo ID with you to gain entry to the courthouse. The same structure holds a branch of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon too. Browse through their list of forms for civil or criminal cases. Federal appeals from this District are handled by the enormous Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is headquartered in San Francisco but has jurisdiction over appeals from Oregon, California, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Washington. Federal appeals originating from Eugene will likely be handled at the Pioneer Courthouse in Portland.