February 2009 • Vol. 29 No. 2 | An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association

An Attorney’s Power Tool: Searchable Civil Register

Access strategic intelligence in myriad courtroom situations. Read about one example below.

Whether you are a veteran subscriber or a newcomer, learning about new ways to access the information on LACBA’s Searchable Civil Register can put you in a position of power. (LACBA's Searchable Civil Register is available for a nominal fee on a firm-wide basis. The fee is waived for firms--including solo practitioners--whose attorneys are all LACBA members. If you have not subscribed yet, call LACBA at (213) 896-6560.)

LACBA's SCR allows users to search and view court summaries from the Los Angeles Superior Court Civil Register from 1997 to the present, including general and limited jurisdiction civil cases for all districts except Van Nuys (general jurisdiction) before January 8, 2001.

After you become a subscriber, you can obtain pertinent information to help you build a winning strategy. Here’s one scenario:

The Situation
Suppose you are a real estate attorney. Your client is a landlord and one of his or her tenants has filed a suit for invasion of privacy. 

Your landlord client did absolutely nothing to “invade” the privacy of the tenant except to do a little exterior gardening on a Saturday afternoon when the tenant was not at home. In complete shock, the landlord received the lawsuit claiming damages for $7,500 for repeated breach of the lease agreement by creating a nuisance.

Your Goal
You can search the tenant’s name, “Jane Smith,” as a party in other lawsuits in Los Angeles County. If this tenant has several other recent law suits, you may find evidence that the tenant might be a vexatious or aggressive litigant

The first step in performing a search is logging into SCR. (Find instructions here.)

Once you log in, SCR’s Search Form appears. (See example here.)

  • In SCR’s search form, you can see the text box labeled Party, Sole Practitioner, Law Firm, Arbitrator, Mediator, Referee, or Receiver.
  • To keep the search broad and flexible, you would type in only the plaintiff’s last name, “Smith.”
  • You can leave all other criteria in SCR’s search form without changes.

Once you click on Find, SCR displays a list of many cases that involve the party’s last name, “Smith.” (See example here.)

  • From these 250 proceedings and 23 cases, you can refine the search further by looking for only those items that involve the plaintiff’s first and last name.
  • To do this, you would bring up your Web browser’s Find dialogue box and type in the first name, “Jane,” or the full name, “Jane Smith,” to find the cases involving this plaintiff in the results list. (If you use a Windows computer, hold down “Ctrl” key and “f.” On MacIntosh computers, it’s "command" "f").

This scenario has come up several times in day-to-day practice:

  • One subscriber found that the plaintiff had five cases pending.
  • Another subscriber discovered that the tenant had a personal injury case, a felony fraud case, and an assault and battery case concurrently.

LACBA's Searchable Civil Register is a power tool. It delivers the information you need to win cases. To find out more, click here

What are your thoughts? What would you like to see on LACBA.org? Send feedback to webmaster@lacba.org or call Mark Biskeborn at 213-896-6401.

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