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Superior Court of California - County of Los Angeles

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Overview

The Los Angeles Superior Court is dedicated to serving our community by providing equal access to justice through the fair, timely and efficient resolution of all cases.Evolving from its Spanish provincial past over two hundred years ago, the Los Angeles Judicial System has grown and developed into an organization that provides services to the largest metropolitan area in the State of California. The Superior Court provides services to over 9.5 million residents who live and work throughout the 4,080 square miles of Los Angeles County. In over one hundred and fifty years of existence, the courts have grown along with the geographic expansion of this region. The history of the judicial system started with the Mexican provincial territory and the pueblo of Los Angeles governed by the 'Alcalde' system of justice. The "Alcalde" was the executive, legislative and judicial governmental entity all rolled into one official. The Alcalde had general authority over criminal matters and public disputes and performed other administrative duties that are equivalent to those performed by a city's mayor. The alcalde system was disbanded when California declared its statehood in 1849 and became a part of the United States. The first California Constitution of 1849 authorized the legislature to establish such municipal and other courts as deemed necessary. President Millard Fillmore signed a law extending the United States judicial system to California in 1850, thus creating the first courts in the State. The California Judiciary Act of 1851 was adopted to establish a court system for the State; it divided the State into sections and created "Districts." Los Angeles was a part of a district with San Bernardino and San Diego Counties. This early predecessor to today's judicial system comprised District, County, and Justice of the Peace Courts. Judge Agustin Olvera of the County Court and Judge Jonathan R. Scott of the Justice of the Peace Court were the first judges to hold these positions. District Courts, similar to today's Superior Court, had jurisdiction in civil cases where the matter in dispute exceeded $200.00, in all criminal matters, and in probate matters. County Courts were similar to today's Municipal Courts. The early District Court system was immediately burdened by the vast expanse of the district which a District Judge served. A District Judge was required to hold court proceedings where the cases were filed. Because of the miles a District Court Judge had to travel to conduct trials and due to the sudden growth in population after the discovery of gold, which led to an increased caseload, the early District Court system became ineffective and non-responsive to the needs of its constituency. County Judges, however, were able to provide services more on a local level. Spurred by unrest by the populace over the structure of state government and the inadequacies of the existing judicial system, a Constitutional Convention was called in 1877. The result of the convention was the adoption of a new State Constitution of 1879 in which a new court structure was developed. The new Constitution created a Supreme Court, District Courts of Appeal, and Superior Courts. The State Constitution dropped all reference to Municipal Courts, and the term did not reappear until 1914. During this period, Justices of the Peace and County Judges served in a number of different city and county court systems, including Justices Courts, County Courts, and Police Courts. Superior Courts were established in each county in the state. Los Angeles County had two judges, Judges Ygnacio Sepulveda and Volney E. Howard, in this new Superior Court. The County's population in 1880 was 33,381, and records indicate that 633 actions were filed in the new court and 57 attorneys practiced in Los Angeles.