court of record | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Courts

A court of record is a court that is authorized to create and maintain a permanent record of its proceedings.

In the realm of jurisprudence, a court of record is a court that is empowered to create and maintain a permanently recorded history of all proceedings that transpire within its jurisdiction. This legal documentation, often meticulously recorded, serves as the official and authoritative account of events that have taken place during a court trial, including witness testimonies, evidence presented, objections raised, and the ultimate verdict.

The role of such a court extends beyond the immediate proceedings. The detailed history they create can be used in subsequent legal proceedings, such as appeals or related cases, serving as an invaluable source of factual information and legal precedence. These courts play a critical role in upholding the principles of legal consistency and transparency, thereby enhancing the integrity of the judicial process.

Courts of Record in the United States

In the United States, the majority of courts function in this way. This applies to federal and state courts at all levels, thereby promoting a uniform approach to maintaining detailed records across the judiciary.

Federal and State Courts

Federal courts, including district courts, circuit courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court, all operate as such. They ensure that every legal proceeding within their jurisdiction is accurately documented and archived. Similarly, state courts, which may include superior courts, appellate courts, and state supreme courts, also function this way.

Specialized Courts

In addition to these general-purpose courts, many specialized courts are also considered as such. These specialized courts often deal with specific areas of law. Probate courts, which handle matters relating to wills, estates, and guardianships, and tax courts, which deal with tax-related disputes, are examples of such courts. Like their general-purpose counterparts, these specialized courts meticulously document all proceedings, ensuring the availability of an official record for future reference.

Non-Court of Record: Inferior Courts

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there exist courts that do not have the authority to create and maintain a permanent record of their proceedings. These courts are typically referred to as courts not of record or inferior courts. Despite the label “inferior,” this does not necessarily imply that these courts are less important, but rather it reflects their lack of authority to create a permanent record.

Examples of such courts may include small claims courts or traffic courts. The decisions made in these courts cannot be used as legal precedents in future cases, which means they cannot serve as a guiding principle or rule to be followed in subsequent, similar cases. This is primarily due to the absence of an official, permanent record that can provide an accurate account of the proceedings, factual findings, and legal reasoning.


In essence, the concept is fundamental to the judiciary’s commitment to transparency, fairness, and justice. It provides a verifiable trail of legal proceedings, allowing for effective scrutiny and review. The records produced in a court of record serve to ensure that all parties involved in a case, as well as the public, can have confidence in the proceedings and the court’s ultimate decision.

Moreover, these records are vital for the appeal process. If a party decides to appeal a court’s decision, the appellate court will rely heavily on the record of the lower court’s proceedings to determine if any legal errors were made.

In conclusion, these courts play an instrumental role in preserving the integrity of the legal system. By maintaining a permanent, detailed record of all proceedings, they contribute significantly to the principles of legal consistency, transparency, and accountability that underpin our judicial process.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/15/2023


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.