A Workaround for Destruction of Local Court Records:


31 March 2014
Fire, floods, vermin, and human neglect have destroyed many legal records that were created at the county or town level. For court records, copies might exist in an alternate source that is often overlooked by historical researchers: the appeals courts at the district, state, provincial, or federal levels. Many court cases from the local levels were appealed to a higher court by the losing party. In those cases, documents from the local trial were copied and submitted to the appeals court for a new adjudication.

Many of these cases exist only as manuscript materials—"loose files" or "packets" that must be consulted at (or ordered from) an archives. In other cases, when the judicial decision was considered important as "case law," the cases have been abstracted into legal tomes called "court reporters" that are widely available in law libraries.  EE's Chapter 8 ("Local and State Records: Courts & Governance") provides a good overview of the types of materials available at the local and state levels. Chapter 13 ("Publications: Legal Works & Government Documents") will introduce you to many national level offerings.