Finding Recent Court Cases

The Utah State Law Library blog posted some helpful information on finding Utah court cases from about the last ten years:

Use the Utah State Courts’ web site to locate both Court of Appeals and Supreme Court opinions. Court of Appeals opinions are available from 1997 to present and Supreme Court opinions are available from September of 1996. Use the search box to do a keyword search, or browse opinions by name or by year of opinion.

Indexes, case files and registers that are much older are available for many Utah district courts, consult the District Court Records Guide to determine what is accessible at the Archives based on the county where the case was filed.

Finding Aids and Catalog

Updates have been made for a couple of different access methods to information about Utah State Archives records available for research.

For the first time since beginning to use an online catalog powered by Horizon (SirsiDynix), we did a complete update of catalog records which yielded at least 200 new record series not previously found in the catalog. To be included in the catalog, a series needs to be considered permanent (i.e. historical) and have holdings available from the Archives. These holdings could be original paper, microfilm, or both (electronic formats have not generally made their way into the permanent collections–yet).

One of the major updates found in the catalog record are links to series inventories or finding aids. This is because of the new web site with a different URL. As part of the grant-funded project to update finding aids to the latest EAD (Encoded Archival Description) format, we took the opportunity to review the content of all finding aids before creating new documents to put online. We are also making some inventories available online for the first time which were previously only in the research center as paper temporary lists. While there are still some to finish reviewing and publishing, over 1,100 are now online.

All series inventories are also simultaneously available in the Mountain West Digital Library EAD Statewide Index (that’s the grant project). This is an exciting result of almost two years of work with thousands of finding aids from the largest repositories of historical archival collections in Utah all in one place.

Holiday Closures

Christmas Boxes from Life Magazine
Christmas Boxes from Life Magazine

The Research Center will be closed Thursday, December 25, 2008 for Christmas and Thursday, January 1, 2009 for New Year’s Day.

We remain open as usual until 6 p.m. on both Wednesday, December 24, 2008 and Wednesday, December 31, 2008.

However, remember that we are closed every Friday and Saturday as part of our normal hours.

1933 Revised Statutes update

The draft of the 1933 Revised Statutes that was discovered to be House Bill 2 in the Working bill files has now been posted online. It is fully text searchable and available as individual PDF pages.,993

One may also download the complete print version, which is quite large with 992 pages. That page count, however, does include duplicate pages to account for images with and without the revisions recorded during the original session (such as p. 340 before and after)

Deseret News: Legislative records

Small item from today’s paper:

Deseret News masthead

Legislative documents dating back to Utah’s inception as a state are now available electronically through the state archive’s Web site.

The House of Representatives working bills files, 1896-1989, were added to the archive’s digital collections and include nearly 150,000 images from 63 legislative sessions. Senate records from the same period are being microfilmed and, when complete, will provide an expansive and publicly accessible electronic cache of state legislative records.

Complete records from both houses of Utah’s Legislature have been archived digitally since 1990.

State archivists have fine-tuned the process of converting the old documents, some of which are hand-written, to digital images.

“Uniquely, this time, we experimented with completing multiple parts of the process one after another for the most efficiency and fastest turnaround,” said Gina Strack, digital coordinator for the Utah State Archives.

The newly added records can be found at

Utah State Archives posts bills files from the Utah House of Representatives

For Immediate Release

Representing almost 100 years of lawmaking work by the Utah State House of Representatives, the early working bills files that are a key part of the legislation process have been posted online by the Utah State Archives and Records Service.

The House of Representatives’ Working bills files, 1896-1989, are the newest addition to the Utah State Archives’ digital collections. Available at, the collection includes nearly 150,000 images covering 63 biennial, annual, and special sessions since statehood. In conjunction with bills files since 1990 that have been put online by the Legislature, researchers and others interested in tracing a bill’s history can now access a complete record online from anywhere at anytime.

Bills, in the broad sense, refer to bills, resolutions, memorials, etc. In the narrow sense, bills consist of those documents which a member of the Legislature desires to have made into a Utah law. A bill normally consists of at least its designated number, a title, an enacting clause, and the main text. Sponsor name(s) appear on the face of the bill. House bills are introduced on the floor of the House and go through three readings before passage. In the process they are referred to one or more committees. The committee reports back with the recommendation that the bill be passed, amended, or rejected. A bill may also be amended on the floor at certain stages. If the bill passes the House after a third reading, it goes to the Senate where it goes through a similar procedure before returning to the House for acceptance of any amendments and is sent to the governor. All these actions, with the dates taken, are logged on the back of the bill.

The Archives first prepared the original paper records for microfilming, and then began scanning the microfilm as soon as it was inspected. The first images went online January 4, 2008, and the remainder followed throughout the year. After scanning, images were organized to the folder level by Archives staff.

“Uniquely this time, we experimented with completing multiple parts of the process one after another for the most efficiency and fastest turnaround,” said Gina Strack, digital coordinator for the Utah State Archives. It is hoped to continue using such a process for future projects, such as the Senate Working bills, which are still being microfilmed.

It may be interesting to note that in comparable times of economic difficulties, the Legislature passed a concurrent “memorial” petitioning the United State Government to initiate money and credit stabilization after previous efforts had “failed or proved inadequate” (H.C.M. 1, 1933). In 1927, county commissioners were directed to erect and maintain memorials to the memory of veterans of wars of the United States (H.B. 52). In a final note of relevance, the Archives and Records Service itself was created by H.B. 314 in 1969, “providing for the centralized management of [the State’s] records” and creating the State Records Committee. Many more examples can be found of how the House of Representatives and the Legislature at large have affected the history of Utah.

Historic southern Utah court records accessible to researchers

For Immediate Release

Historic records from the modern-day Fifth District Court and the territorial Second District Court are now accessible to local researchers on microfilm at the State Archives and  libraries at Southern Utah University in Cedar City and Dixie College in St. George.

Grant funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) allowed the Utah State Archives to archivally process (arrange and describe), microfilm, and create finding aids for the historical records of Utah’s Fifth District Court (Washington, Iron, and Beaver Counties) from statehood in 1896 to 1955 and for the Territorial Second District Court which was seated in Beaver County from 1870 to 1896. The year-long Judicial Records Preservation and Access grant project was completed in June 2008. Libraries at SUU and Dixie, which serve as regional repositories in the state archives system, have received microfilm copies for the convenience of local users.

Court records frequently are requested by researchers. Records involved in this project include probate, civil, and criminal case files, as well as court registers of actions, minutes, and judgment books. The records include information about the administration of estates, divorces, and other civil actions as well as criminal cases brought before the court. Criminal records for the Territorial Second District seated in Beaver include the controversial trail of John D. Lee (1875-1876) for his involvement in the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre. Finding aids for the Fifth District Court can be found at

These Southwestern Utah court records inform us of the lifestyles and challenges of the people in this area. How did the miners, farmer, and ranchers navigate the transition from the settlement ear to a more commercial economy? The records document disputes over water rights and mining claims.

The beginning of the project included an inventory of all eight district court’s historical records, which were dispersed through different agencies and locations throughout the state. The inventory is a comprehensive accounting of the state’s historical records. It may be found at

District Court Records Guide Updated

The processing and research staff of the Utah State Archives is excited to unveil the latest edition of the Utah State District Court Records Guide.  Work associated with this resource began in 2005 with a systematic inventory of historic records in all of the 29 state district courts.  The information compiled during this inventory was reconciled against all known holdings of the State Archives, allowing research staff to better assist patrons with historic court record research.  This effort has also provided a useful model for formulating processing projects.  Between July 2007 and June 2008, all courts records from the Fifth District Court (Beaver, Iron and Washington County) and the Territorial Second District Court were processed with funding assistance from a NHPRC grant.  Currently, staff is working to improve access to records from two of the largest courts in the state including the Second District Court in Weber County (Ogden) and the Fourth District Court in Utah County (Provo).

In addition to the links to records descriptions found in this guide, the following guides and histories may be of use:

Did you know? The Fifth District Court in Beaver County’s Indexes are available online covering 1896-1998.

House Working bills are Finished

In celebration of a project complete

We even had the cupcakes to prove it–one for each session digitized and put online.

Naturally, it would be great to move onto the Senate Working bills. First, microfilming will need to completed, both for preservation and it is from the microfilm that we scan the digital images. Secondly, with the overall economic climate, resources are a little tighter and may affect upcoming projects.

Still, it is amazing to think of the numbers: 63 legislative sessions between 1896 and 1989 with 4,598 folders and 146,817 images now online. It has been about 11 months since the first image went online on January 4, 2008 (hey that’s Statehood day!), with scanning activities going back to late 2007. Now that the simple folders are available, we are looking at ways to add searching based on criteria such as individual bill numbers and subjects to be added. In the meantime, browsing is easiest by year.

Proper press releases will also follow along shortly.

An Extra Statute Found

We are literally days away from finishing the enormous House Working Bills record series project, putting online all bill files discussed by the Utah House of Representatives from 1896 to 1989 (1990 to the present is on the Legislature’s own site). And sometimes you get a little more than expected.

Yesterday, while finishing up the last few, we discovered that we have essentially digitized the entire 1933 Revised Statutes of Utah, since it started out as House Bill 2 in the 1933 session. With little changes, it was later published in the form anyone doing historical research in compiled laws may be familiar with (a nice big volume with black cover). To add some value to this resource, I am working on putting up an extra version of the bill file with full OCR text search to make it useful and searchable. This will hopefully go along well with the other historical statutues digitized by the University of Utah’s Marriott Library.

See also: Utah State Law Library Research Guide: Utah Statutory Codes, Utah Code Annotated Series Inventory