District Court (Third District : Salt Lake County) Minute books
Some records may not be available for research from June 1-11, 2015 due to equipment upgrades. Please consider visiting beforehand or contacting the Research Center for more information.
Dates: i 1896-1967.
These records are housed in the Utah State Archives' permanent storage room.
An agency history is available.
Scope and Content
In 1896, the new state constitution provided for a court system to include a supreme court, district courts, and justices courts. The third district was assigned three justices. The county clerk kept the minute books for the district court in each county. This series reflects the minutes of the court in and for Salt Lake County. While Tooele, Summit, and Daggett counties were part of the third district at various times during this period, minutes for those counties are not included in this series.
The minutes contain information on civil and criminal cases and their related legal and procedural issues. Except in the case of contested estates or issues such as life estates and joint tenancy where it became a civil case, probate minutes were kept separately. Juvenile cases were separated after the creation of a juvenile court in 1901. Initial procedural rules for the operation of the third district court are explained in Book 2, pp. 123-128; amendments were made later as needed. Civil and criminal cases were distributed among all the district judges for the county. As case loads increased, additional judges were added to the district, and judges from other districts could be asked to hear cases in the third district if needed. Separate minutes are kept for each judge starting about 1900.
The minute books document the daily proceedings of the third district court in Salt Lake County, but they are not transcripts of court cases. Business matters include identifying the court site and officers present, selecting or dismissing jurors, and scheduling and assigning cases. These are followed by a summary of proceedings for each case heard that day. By the end of the 1960s, keeping up the minute books became infeasible, and minute entries were made part of the individual case files.
A typical case will span multiple dates. Further, a single case might have transactions recorded under more than one judge. For example, the preliminary motions might be under one judge, with the trial assigned to another; reassignment of cases also occurred on occasion. Numerous entries may be found concerning various motions without alluding to the original charge. In particular, with civil cases, the original complaint is not always specified. The details were recorded in information or indictment record rather than in the minutes. Only volume 41 has those records bound with the minutes.
A case will include an indictment for a charge or indication of a complaint filed; demurrers, in which a defendant does not deny the charge but maintains it is not significant enough to justify legal action; dismissals; continuances; court orders or other motions; a statement that the case was presented, including names of those testifying, but rarely alluding to the nature of the testimony; the findings; and precise sentencing or settlement. The most information presented occurs in various forms of property disputes (eg. receivership, foreclosure, mining claims, estate settlement, water rights) where settlement details the property and its sale or distribution. More information than usual is also present in cases where the jury was asked to assign percentage of contributory negligence or resolve multiple questions in its findings.
Cases include those for murder (among them the initial trial of Joseph Hillstrom, also known as Joe Hill, found in vol. 26), larceny, robbery, burglary, assault, rape, riot, polygamy, gambling, narcotics, sodomy, child abuse, prostitution, etc. Applications for liquor licenses proliferate in the teens followed by prosecutions for liquor law violations in the 1920s after the enactment of Prohibition. Traffic violations of varying severity are common later.
Monetary cases include forgery, embezzlement , and bad check writing. Also included are receivership, garnishment of wages, debt, foreclosure, dissolutions of corporation or their withdrawal from the state, and tax commission liens. Bank and loan company liquidations appear repeatedly in the 1930s. The issues involved in many civil cases are difficult to determine but do include property disputes, wages disputes, and liability claims.
Divorce, alimony, and child support (including bastardy) cases are common throughout. A spurt of requests for issuance of marriage licenses without a blood test follow the 1941 law mandating that procedure. Commitments to state institutions (eg. reform school/industrial school, training school, asylum/mental hospital, tuberculosis sanitorium) are also present throughout.
The district courts had the power to grant citizenship. The process included two witnesses testifying to the applicant's character, renouncing foreign allegiance, and taking an oath of allegiance to the United States constitution. The applicant's name, the names of his witnesses, his native country and current county of residence are noted in the minutes. Applicants almost always are, but at first did not need to be, residents of Salt Lake County.
Most cases are exercises of original jurisdiction but do include appeals from county, justice of the peace courts, and after 1901, municipal courts. Occasionally reciprocal agreements and extradition procedures involving other states appear.
Chronological by date.
Volumes are arranged in rough chronological order. After 1900, separate volumes are kept for individual judges, so several volumes will have overlapping dates. Until the 1960s, the volumes are in numerical order. After that date, minutes are no longer kept in numbered volumes. The rough chronological order continues, but blocks of entries were sometimes filmed out of order. Entries within the blocks are in chronological order; rarely they are filmed in reverse. Book 32 is missing but creates no apparent gap in the sequence. Consult the attached inventory.
Civil case files from the District Court (Third District : Salt Lake County), Series 1622, documents proceedings of civil cases.
Territorial minute books from the District Court (Third District), Series 1649, record third district court minutes for the territorial period, while minutes produced after 1896 are found in this series.
Criminal registers of actions from the District Court (Third District : Salt Lake County), Series 3253, documents the proceedings of each case.
Naturalization record books from the District Court (Third District : Salt Lake County), Series 3573, contain naturalization records related to the hearings noted in the minutes.
Civil case files (sealed) from the District Court (Third District : Salt Lake County), Series 12628, document proceedings in civil case files
Citizenship certificate stubs from the District Court (Third District : Salt Lake County), Series 85112, note the naturalization hearings whose summaries are included in these minutes.
This series is available on microfilm.
This series is classified as Public.
Cite the Utah State Archives and Records Service, the creating agency name, the series title, and the series number.
- Trials (Murder)--Utah.
- Trials (Rape)--Utah.
- Trials (Larceny)--Utah.
- Trials (Burglary)--Utah.
- Trials (Assault and battery)--Utah.
- Trials (Embezzlement)--Utah.
- Actions and defenses--Utah--Salt Lake County.
- Tax liens--Cases--Utah.
- Insane--Commitment and detention--Utah.
- Corporation law--Cases--Utah.