Creator Charleston (S.C.). City Court 
Charleston (S.C.). Police Court
Date 1842–1938
Physical description 5 linear feet
Preferred Citation [Identification of the Specific Item], Records of the City Court of Charleston and Police Court, 1842–1938, City of Charleston Records, Charleston County Public Library, Charleston, SC.
Repository The Charleston Archive
Compiled By Previous inventories published in “Descriptive Inventory of the Archives of the City of Charleston,” July 1981, M. F. Holling and “Descriptive Inventory of the City of Charleston,” July 1996, S. L. King.
Access to materials Collection is open for research.
Subject Headings Court records--South Carolina--Charleston
Municipal courts--South Carolina--Charleston
Municipal ordinances--South Carolina--Charleston
Taxation--South Carolina--Charleston
  Portions of this collection have been digitized and are available online.

Scope and Content

This collection comprises both the records of the City of Charleston City Court and those of the City of Charleston Police Court. The City Court records include Delinquent Tax Files, Violations of Liquor Ordinance, Violations of Sunday Liquor Ordinance, Violations of License Ordinances, Violations of Measures Ordinance, Jury Summons, Miscellaneous City Court Papers, City Court of Charleston Minute Docket No. 2 & 3, List of Judgments in the City Court, Judge's Docket City Court No. 1, File Book, City Court, City Court Judgment Record, and City Court Journal. The records of the Police Court contain Individual Case Files, Appeals, Correspondence, and Miscellaneous Files. The collection also includes one Cash Charge Book whose provenance is unclear.

Delinquent Tax Files (1869–1897, Bulk 1877–1879) are files documenting legal action taken against individuals who have not paid their property tax. The files are arranged alphabetically by the last name of the individual. The majority of the files contain a Judgment by Default as well as supporting documents, such as: City Court Summons, Complaint for Nonpayment of Taxes, City Tax Return, Receipt for payment of Tax Execution, Summons and Complaint for Relief, Summons – For Money Demand, Assignment of Judgment, Tax Execution, Correspondence, Judgment Certified, Satisfaction of Judgment, Summons and Complaint for Money Demand, and Complaint for Non-Payment of Taxes. Individual files vary in completeness. These files may proves useful to those individuals doing property research, as the tax returns contain the address(es) of the property being taxed.

Violations of Liquor Ordinance (1901–1903) consist of court documents filed against individuals for violating "An Ordinance prohibiting the manufacture, sale, barter, exchange or other illegal handling of Spiritous Liquor" ratified 10 September 1901. These files are arranged alphabetically by the last name of the defendant and primarily contain Warrant or Information forms.

Violations of Sunday Liquor Ordinance (1889) is a single file which contains cases brought against individuals for violating an ordinance banning barrooms from opening on Sunday.

Violations of License Ordinances (1876–1879) contain court documents for cases involving individuals who have violated the City's ordinances regulating business licenses. The majority of the files date to 1879 and represent violations of "An Ordinance to regulate Licenses for the year A. D. 1879" ratified 17 December 1878. These files are arranged alphabetically by last name of the defendant and contain documents such as: Court Summons, Complaint for Doing Business without a License, Summons and Complaint for Money Demand, Summons for Money Demand, and Judgment by Default. The files vary in completeness.

Violation of Measures Ordinance (1886–1887) is a single file containing documents filed against persons for violating the City's ordinances regulating weights and measures. These documents, arranged alphabetically by last name of defendant, contain official court summons, as well as occasional explanatory correspondence. All but one of the cases included are citations for unstamped measures.

Jury Summons (1901) is a single file containing jury summons and excuses for not serving appointed jury duty.

Miscellaneous City Court Papers (n.d.–1904) is a single file that contains items removed from the City Court Journal. These items include handwritten notes, jury notices, correspondence, and official court documents. The majority of the items are blank court forms, specifically Warrant or Information, Writ of Venire Facias, and Rule to Show Cause.

The City Court of Charleston Minute Docket No. 2 & 3 (10/1883–09/1902 & 11/1902–10/1909) consists of two volumes, arranged by court term (month/year), which list plaintiff (always the City Council of Charleston), defendant, attorney, and miscellaneous remarks (e.g. judgment, continued, settled with sheriff, withdrawn, sentence, etc.).

List of Judgments in the City Court (labeled 10/1886–10/1895; actually 05/1886–06/1895) is a single volume, arranged alphabetically by first letter of defendant's last name and then arranged chronologically by case date within each letter. This volume lists defendant's name, date, and amount of judgment against the individual.

Judge's Docket, City Court No. 1 (03/1874–09/1883) is a single volume, arranged chronologically by court term (month/year). This volume includes plaintiff (always City Council of Charleston), defendant, attorneys, and remarks (e.g.: judgment, "continued", "struck off", "under appeal"). Despite the cover title, the volume actually includes dockets for courts No. 1 (03/1874–09/1883), No. 2 (n.d.–07/1883), and No. 6 (03/1874–09/1882).

File Book, City Court (02/07/1874–10/08/1879, 02/16/1888–04/24/1891, 08/20/1894– 09/15/1894, 02/23/1897–06/10/1897, 09/26/1901–10/11/1901) is a single volume, arranged chronologically by date of filing. This volume includes title of case, class of paper (usually summons or summons & complaint; sometimes more detailed, violation of Sunday liquor law, answer, notice of appeal, information), date of filing, by whom filed.

City Court Judgment Record (03/1874–07/1897) is a single volume, arranged alphabetically by first letter of defendant's last name, then arranged chronologically within each letter. This volume lists roll number, defendant, plaintiff (always City Council of Charleston), date, amount of judgment, attorney name and date of satisfaction.

City Court Journal (03/06/1874–07/1/1938) is a single volume, arranged chronologically. This volume constitutes a record of the proceedings of the City Court and includes presiding judge (or, later, recorder), jurors, individual cases, judgments, etc.

Police Court Individual Case files (1892–1931) contain documentation pertaining to individual cases tried in the Police Court. These files, arranged alphabetically by the last name of the defendant, include documents such as: Return of Recorder, Brief of Respondent, Brief of Appellant on Appeal, Supplemental Report from Recorder, Return of Recorder on Appeal, police affidavits, testimony transcripts, case notes, bench warrant, and search warrant. The files vary in completeness.

Appeals files (1898–1930) contain documentation of individuals appealing verdicts handed down in Police Court, arranged alphabetically by the last name of the defendant. Some of these files also contain supporting documents such as affidavits, bonds, and appeal dismissals.

Correspondence files (1899–1932) contain letters received by the City Recorder (usually Theodore D. Jervey), arranged chronologically. Included in the correspondence are the responses of other municipalities to a circular letter sent out by the Recorder in 1899, inquiring into the jurisdiction of Police Courts around the nation.

Miscellaneous files (1899–1923) contain various documents related to the business of the Police Court and the City Recorder, arranged chronologically. Items in the files include: extracts from legal documents, reports, court briefs, copy of Return of Recorder, published ordinance, published S.C. Supreme Court cases, handwritten notes, Return to Rule to Show Cause, police affidavits, Writ of Habeas Corpus, Petition, Abstract of Acts Relating to the Police Court and City Court of Charleston, S.C., secondary evidence, and information on cases heard in the Magistrate's Court.

The Cash Charge Book (1842–1857, 1886; labeled "1844, 1845, 1846, 1847, 1848, etc.") appears to be an accounting ledger used by the Courts to keep track of service requests. The ledger has no identifying markers, so it is not possible to determine which Court(s) are represented. However, the time frame is consistent with both the City Court and Police Court. The ledger is arranged alphabetically by the name of the individual/entity with whom the court was interacting, usually an attorney or legal firm. Entries include the date of the transaction, a brief description, and the amount charged. Transactions include typical court business, such as issuing Certificates of Judgment, conducting records searches, recording Renunciations of Dower, copying orders, filing Returns of Garnishee, signing writs, etc. Most of the pages have been marked through, presumably when the account was paid in full.

 

Administrative/Biographical History

When the City of Charleston was officially incorporated in 1783, the responsibility for performing judicial duties fell to the city Wardens. At least three of the Wardens were to meet twice a week "to hear and determine all small and mean causes, agreeably to the directions of the act of the General Assembly, and all other matters of complaint arising within the said city." To carry out their duties, each of the Wardens was vested with all the power and authority of a justice of the peace.1

The Court of Wardens continued to wield judicial power in Charleston until 1801. In that year, the General Assembly passed an act to establish a Court of Inferior Jurisdiction in the City of Charleston. This court was created "for the hearing and determining of causes of a civil nature, arising within the limits of the said City of Charleston, and for the trial of all offences against the by-laws of the City of Charleston." The Inferior Court was presided over by the City Recorder. The judgments handed down by this court could not exceed one hundred dollars and could not include corporal punishment.2 In 1820, the name of this court was officially changed to the City Court of Charleston.3

In 1836, City Council passed an ordinance that created a Police Court, to be presided over by the Mayor (otherwise know as the Intendant). The Mayor was charged with examining those individuals committed to the Guard House, as well as any others brought before him legally, and to dispose of the cases according to the law. The Mayor also had the right to issue warrants, compel the attendance of witnesses, and punish persons for contempt. This court was sometimes referred to as the Mayor's Court.4

The powers and jurisdiction of the courts and those presiding over them evolved over the years. The jurisdiction of the City Court increased several times, until finally it included cases bearing fines of up to one thousand dollars.5 Fines and forfeitures in the Police Court, however, could not exceed one hundred dollars. In addition to monetary penalties, both courts were eventually permitted to imprison offenders in the Work House or jail6, and were also given the power to sentence lawbreakers to hard labor in the streets of the city.7 In 1878, both the City Court and the Police Court were placed under the authority of the city Recorder. In addition, the Recorder was vested with all the power, authority, and jurisdiction of a Trial Justice.8

In 1911, the state created the Civil and Criminal Court for the city of Charleston and surrounding areas, effectively making the City Court of Charleston superfluous.9 It appears that the City Court continued to convene on a regular basis until 1938; however, little to no judicial business was conducted at these meetings. Conversely, the Police Court continued to function well into the twentieth century. The City Court and Police Court were officially abolished in 1962, when the city of Charleston established the Municipal Court.10


1 -- Ordinances of the City Council of Charleston, 1802, pp. 4–5

2 -- The Statutes at Large of South Carolina, Vol. 7, p.300

3 -- The Statutes at Large of South Carolina, Vol. 7, p.322

4 -- A Digest of the Ordinances of the City Council of Charleston, 1783–1844, p. 165

5 -- The Statutes at Large of South Carolina, Vol. 7, p.325

6 -- The General Ordinances of the City of Charleston, S.C., and the Acts of the General Assembly Relating Thereto, 1882, p.216

7 -- The General Ordinances of the City of Charleston, S.C., and the Acts of the General Assembly Relating Thereto, 1882, p.217

8 -- The General Statutes and the Code of Civil Procedure of the State of South Carolina, Adopted by the General Assembly of 1881–82, p.615

 

Acquisition

This collection comprises a portion of the historic records of the City of Charleston. These materials were put on permanent loan to the Charleston County Public Library by the City of Charleston Records Management Division in 2002.

 

Collection Outline

I. City Court of Charleston  
A. Delinquent Tax Files Box 1-3
B. Violations of Liquor Ordinance Box 4
C. Violations of Sunday Liquor Ordinance Box 4
D. Violations of License Ordinances, A–C Box 4
D–W
Box 5
E. Violations of Measures Ordinance Box 5
F. Jury Summons Box 5
G. Miscellaneous City Court Papers Box 5
H. City Court of Charleston Minute Docket, No. 2 & 3 Box 6
I. List of Judgments in the City Court Box 6
J. Judge's Docket City Court No. 1 Box 7
K. File Book, City Court Box 7
L. City Court Judgment Record Box 8
M. City Court Journal Box 9
   
II. Police Court  
A. Individual Case Files, B–R Box 10
S–W
Box 11
B. Appeals Box 11
C. Correspondence Box 11
D. Miscellaneous Files Box 11
   
III. Cash Charge Book Box 8