A court of record is literally a court which keeps permanent records. Historically, lesser courts not of record often did not keep permanent records of their proceedings, while higher courts did, and these records could be used in appeals and legal research. Today, recordkeeping is so easy that almost all courts keep records which are often permanent, but only certain courts are officially designated as courts of record. When a case is tried in a court not of record, if the parties wish to appeal the outcome, they can request a new trial in a court of record, in which the case will be treated as entirely new with no prior trial history.
Typically a clerk is appointed to hold the seal of the court of record. The court clerk is responsible for maintaining all court records and providing them upon request. The seal is used to mark documents from the court to indicate that they are official and under the care of the clerk. In addition to keeping records such as transcripts of proceedings, a court of record can also retain evidence, written decisions, and other documents pertaining to trials which have taken place within its laws.
Courts of record have the power to imprison and fine people. When a case is finished and a decision is entered into the record, the parties to the case have the right to appeal. For an appeal, they must go to a higher court, and the records pertaining to the court will be sent to the higher court for inspection. It will also be noted for the record that an appeal was filed, and the note will include a discussion of where and when the appeal was filed and what the outcome was.
People who are not sure about whether or not they are in a court of record can ask the court clerk or other court staff for information. It is important to be aware that in nations which distinguish between courts of record and courts not of record, it is usually the law that only licensed attorneys can represent people in a court of record. The attorney acts as an advocate and can stand in for the client, and no other person may do this.
For people interested in history, the records kept by courts can provide a fascinating glimpse into specific legal cases, social trends, and various time periods in history. The wealth of records can be utilized to do everything from tracing one person's journey through life to examining social policies which played out in the courts.