Who We Are
The Twenty-First Judicial District is one of 27 judicial districts in the state trial court system. Our role is to resolve disputes according to the law, and process other legal transactions, as allowed by law. We cover the geographical area of Benton County although we are not part of county government. Our court has three elected judges that serve for six year terms.
What We Do
We provide a forum for resolving disputes and for processing legal issues based on state law. The court processes all kinds of cases including :
- Misdemeanor and felony crimes based on violations of state law
- Traffic, boating, and fish and game offenses
- Juvenile delinquency and dependency matters (child abuse and neglect)
- Domestic relations
- Contract disputes
- Personal injury and other "torts"
- Civil rights violations
- Civil commitment (of mentally ill persons)
- Real property issues
- Protective proceedings(guardianships and conservatorships)
8,651 cases were filed in our court in the year 2007. Out of these, approximately 61 percent were criminal cases, 25 percent were civil cases including small claims and landlord tenant evictions, 7 percent were domestic relations matters, 2 percent were juvenile cases and the remaining 4 percent consisted of probate and mental health cases. Over the same period, the court resolved 9,234 cases, some of which were pending at the beginning of 2007.
Our Values and Goals
- Fairness, equality and integrity
- Openness and timeliness
- Independence, impartiality and consistency
- Excellence, innovation and accountability
- Respect, dignity, public service and community well-being
Our goals are:
- To ensure access to court services for all people.
- To make courts work for people.
- To help people choose the best way to resolve their disputes.
- To build strong partnerships with local communities to promote public safety and quality of life.
- To earn the publics enduring trust and confidence.
How We Fit in With Other Courts*
There are other courts which make up the judicial branch of government at the city, county, state and federal levels. They have different sources of funding, and vary in what types of cases they hear. More information about them is provided below.
Municipal courts are part of city government. They handle violations of city laws, called ordinances that regulate such things as animal control, fire control, parking and traffic within the city limits. Municipal courts also may handle state misdemeanors that happen within city limits. Appeals from municipal courts that are not courts of record (the proceedings are not recorded or transcribed) are heard in circuit court. In Benton County, the following cities have municipal courts: Corvallis, Monroe and Philomath.
County courts are justice courts which are part of county government. They handle minor traffic offenses, some misdemeanors, small civil claims and violations of county ordinances. Appeals from justice courts that are not courts of record (the proceedings are not recorded or transcribed) are heard in circuit court. Benton County does not have a justice court.
There are 26 other judicial districts that make up the circuit court (trial court) level of the state court system. Most districts cover one county and have one circuit court. In addition to the trial courts, the state court system includes the Tax Court, Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court. The Tax Court handles cases from the entire state that involve the state's tax laws. The Oregon Court of Appeals reviews most appeals from Oregon circuit courts and administrative appeals from state agencies. The Oregon Supreme Court reviews appeals from the Oregon Court of Appeals, and some other special cases, such as death penalty cases and appeals from Tax Court.
Oregon has a federal trial court called the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. It hears cases that involve disputes involving the United States Constitution, federal law, or administrative actions of federal agencies. Federal district courts have "general jurisdiction" in cases that involve federal law and cases that involve substantial claims where the parties are from different states. Oregon's federal trial court has offices and hears cases in Eugene, Medford, Pendleton and Portland.
The federal Bankruptcy Court for Oregon is a limited jurisdiction, federal trial court in Portland and Eugene. It is a specialized court that hears only bankruptcy cases. When a person files for bankruptcy and notifies a state court of the filing, the law puts all state-court money judgments and civil actions involving that person on hold, until the bankruptcy is resolved or the bankruptcy court lifts the stay and allows the state action to continue.
*Some of this material was derived from a copyrighted paper, "Oregon's Courts" developed by the Oregon Judicial Department, and is provided here for nonprofit educational purposes. You may reproduce or copy this material for personal use or nonprofit educational purposes, but not for resale or other for-profit distribution unless you have permission from the Office of the State Court Administrator, Oregon Judicial Department.
The federal appellate court for Oregon is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco; its Oregon office is in Portland. As the name implies, it is an appellate court that hears appeals from lower federal courts in the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit covers Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Hawaii, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands. The United States federal courts have 13 circuit courts of appeal; parties may appeal these courts' decisions to the United States Supreme Court.
The History of the Benton County Courthouse*
The land the courthouse occupies was donated to the county by Joseph and Martha Avery and William and Julia Dixon, co-founders of the town first known as Marysville and later named Corvallis.
The Benton County Courthouse, designed by Portland architect Delos D. Neer, was built in 1888-1889. Its style is consistent with the Italianate architecture popular at the time. The total cost of the project, including furnishings, was less than $70,000.
The Circuit Court, with Judge R.S. Bean presiding, sat in its first session in the new courthouse on November 4, 1889.
The Benton County Courthouse was designated an Oregon Historic Site in 1968 and is the oldest courthouse in Oregon still serving its original purpose.
*This material was derived from a publication titled "The Flight of Time," that was prepared to celebrate the Courthouse Centennial Celebration.