Select a State:

Methods of Judicial Selection

Limited Jurisdiction Courts

Alabama

District Court
Jurisdiction: misdemeanor criminal cases; civil cases under $10,000
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: licensed to practice law 3 yrs
Probate Court
Jurisdiction: probate of wills; administration of intestate estates; determination of property rights of widows; processing of adoptions; recording of all land partitions and sales
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: --
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: cases arising under municipal ordinances
Selection of Judges: appointed by governing body of municipality
Retention of Judges: reappointment
Qualifications: licensed in state
Note: Municipal governing bodies may abolish local courts and transfer jurisdiction to the county's district court.

Alaska

District Court
Jurisdiction: state misdemeanors; violations of city and borough ordinances; summonses and warrants; first appearances and preliminary hearings in felony cases; civil cases < $50,000; small claims < $7,500; cases involving children on an emergency basis; domestic violence cases
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Retention of Judges: retention election
Qualifications: 21 yrs of age; U.S. citizen; state resident 5 yrs; licensed in state and engaged in active practice 3 yrs, or served as magistrate 7 yrs and graduated from an accredited law school

Arizona

Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: misdemeanor criminal and civil traffic violations; violations of city ordinances; orders of protection and injunctions; domestic violence and harassment cases
Selection of Judges: appointment by city or town councils*
Retention of Judges: reappointment*
Qualifications: established by city charters or ordinances; law degree may not be required
Justice of the Peace
Jurisdiction: petty offenses and misdemeanors; civil cases < $10,000; traffic cases; landlord/tenant cases; domestic violence and harassment cases; small claims cases; preliminary hearings
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: 18 yrs of age; state resident; qualified voter in precinct; read and write English; law degree not required
*Except in Yuma, where judges are elected.

Arkansas

District Court
Jurisdiction: county-wide jurisdiction over misdemeanor cases, preliminary felony cases, and civil cases in matters of less than $5,000
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: 26 yrs of age; 3 yrs practice of law (some local exceptions); registered voter of district
City Court
Jurisdiction: operate in smaller communities where district courts do not exist and exercise citywide jurisdiction
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: --
Note: Amendment 80, approved by the voters in the November 2000 elections, merged Arkansas' courts of limited jurisdiction (municipal courts, justice of the peace courts, corporation courts, police courts, and courts of common pleas) into one court--the district court. The process of court consolidation is to be complete by January 1, 2005. There will be at least one district court in each county. City courts will remain in existence unless abolished by the governing body of the city or by the general assembly.

California

California has a unified judicial system, in which its Superior Court has jurisdiction over all types of cases.

 

Colorado

County Court
Jurisdiction: civil cases < $15,000; misdemeanors; traffic infractions; felony complaints; restraining orders; small claims
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission*
Retention of Judges: retention election
Qualifications: qualified elector and resident of county; licensed to practice law in state**
Water Court
Jurisdiction: determination of water rights; uses and administration of water resources; all other water matters
Selection of Judges: designation by supreme court from among district court judges
Retention of Judges: redesignation
Qualifications: qualified elector in district; licensed to practice law in state 5 yrs; mandatory retirement age of 72
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: municipal ordinance violations
Selection of Judges: appointment by governing body of municipality
Retention of Judges: reappointment
Qualifications: high school graduate or its equivalency;*** municipality may require judge to be elector of municipality or county

*In Denver, judges are appointed by the mayor rather than the governor.

**In small counties, judges are only required to have graduated from high school or obtained the equivalent of a high school education. Such judges must attend an institute on the duties and functioning of the county court.

***Preference is to be given by the municipal governing body to the appointment of judges who are licensed to practice law in the state or who are trained in the law.

Connecticut

Probate Court
Jurisdiction: trusts and estates; guardians, conservators, and civil commitment; parents
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: resident of probate district; > 18 yrs of age; mandatory retirement at 70

Delaware

Family Court
Jurisdiction: domestic relations; juvenile; misdemeanors; moving traffic violations
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from judicial nominating commission with senate consent*
Retention of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from judicial nominating commission with senate consent*
Qualifications: local resident; state resident 5 yrs; law degree; practiced in state 5 yrs
Justice of the Peace
Jurisdiction: civil cases < $15,000; traffic cases; felony arraignments; non-jury misdemeanors
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from magistrate screening committee with senate consent
Retention of Judges: reappointed by governor
Qualifications: local and state resident
Court of Common Pleas
Jurisdiction: civil cases < $50,000; appeals from justice of peace and alderman's courts; administrative appeals from DMV; preliminary hearings
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from judicial nominating commission with senate consent*
Retention of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from judicial nominating commission with senate consent*
Qualifications: local and state resident; law degree; practiced in state 5 yrs; state citizen
Alderman’s Court
Jurisdiction: misdemeanors; traffic offenses; parking violations; minor civil matters
Selection of Judges: appointed by the mayor or the city governing body
Retention of Judges: varies by municipality
Qualifications: varies by municipality
*The Delaware Constitution stipulates that no more than a bare majority of judges on these courts may be members of the same political party.

District of Columbia

The District of Columbia has a unified judicial system, in which its Superior Court has jurisdiction over all types of cases.

 

Federal

N/A

Florida

County Court
Jurisdiction: misdemeanors; small claims < $500; civil cases < $15,000; traffic cases
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election*
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: qualified elector; circuit resident; admitted to practice law in state 5 yrs;** mandatory retirement age of 70

*The voters in each county may exercise a local option for merit selection and retention of county court judges. A county may initiate the local option by filing with the secretary of state a petition signed by a number of voters equal to at least 10% of the votes cast in the county in the most recent presidential election. The measure must then be approved by a majority of county voters.

**In counties with populations of 40,000 or less, the five-year requirement is waived.

Georgia

Probate Court
Jurisdiction: probate of wills; administration of estates; appointment of guardians; issuance of lunacy commissions and marriage licenses; traffic and truancy in some counties; holding of courts of inquiry; issuance of search and arrest warrants in some cases; miscellaneous misdemeanors
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: re-election
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; county resident 2 yrs; minimum age of 25; registered voter; completion of initial training course and additional training as required; high school diploma or its equivalent**
Juvenile Court
Jurisdiction: deprived, unruly, delinquent juveniles; juvenile traffic
Selection of Judges: appointed by superior court judges of the circuit*
Retention of Judges: reappointment
Qualifications: state resident 3 yrs; county resident; admitted to practice law 5 yrs; minimum age of 30
Magistrate
Jurisdiction: search and arrest warrants; felony and misdemeanor preliminaries; county ordinances; civil claims < $15,000
Selection of Judges: partisan election/ appointment
Retention of Judges: reelection/ reappointment
Qualifications: county resident 1 yr; minimum age of 25; high school diploma or its equivalent
State Court
Jurisdiction: civil law actions except cases within exclusive jurisdiction of superior court; misdemeanors; traffic; felony preliminaries
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: state resident 3 yrs; county resident; minimum age of 25; admitted to practice law 7 yrs

Note: There are approximately 400 special and municipal courts. Selection method and qualifications are set by local legislation.

*The Floyd County judge is the only elected juvenile court judge.

**In counties with populations greater than 96,000, probate judges must have practiced law for seven years and be at least 30 years of age.

Hawaii

Family Court
Jurisdiction: legal matters involving children and domestic relations cases
Selection of Judges: chief justice appointment from nominating commission with senate confirmation
Retention of Judges: retained by nominating commission
Qualifications: state and U.S. resident and citizen; circuit resident; 5 yrs state practice; mandatory retirement at 70
District Court
Jurisdiction: traffic infractions; landlord/tenant disputes; non-jury civil trials < $10,000; civil cases < $20,000; criminal misdemeanors; petitions for restraining orders
Selection of Judges: chief justice appointment from nominating commission with senate confirmation
Retention of Judges: retained by nominating commission
Qualifications: state and U.S. resident and citizen; circuit resident; 5 yrs state practice; mandatory retirement at 70
Land Court
Jurisdiction: applications for registration of title to land and easements or rights in land held and possessed
Selection of Judges: land court matters are assigned to judges of the circuit court of the first circuit by the administrative judge
Retention of Judges: *
Qualifications: *
Tax Court
Jurisdiction: disputes involving property, excise, liquor, tobacco, income, and insurance taxes
Selection of Judges: tax appeal court matters are assigned to judges of the circuit court of the first circuit by the administrative judge
Retention of Judges: **
Qualifications: **

*Land court matters are assigned to judges of the circuit court of the first circuit by the administrative judge.

**Tax appeal court matters are assigned to judges of the circuit court of the first circuit by the administrative judge.

Idaho

Magistrate
Jurisdiction: civil actions less than $10,000, small claims, traffic cases, juvenile corrections, misdemeanors, domestic relations, arrest warrants, search warrants, adoption, child protection
Selection of Judges: initial appointment by district magistrates commission for 18 months
Retention of Judges: retention election in the first general election following initial 18 month appointment
Qualifications: high school graduate or high school equivalency; 30 yrs of age; 5 yrs practice of law; licensed in state

Illinois

Illinois has a unified judicial system, in which its circuit court has jurisdiction over all types of cases.

Indiana

Superior Court
Jurisdiction: varies from county to county
Selection of Judges: partisan election*
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: circuit resident; admitted to practice law in state**
Tax Court
Jurisdiction: original tax appeals; small claims docket
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Retention of Judges: retention election
Qualifications: state resident 2 yrs; admitted to state practice 5 yrs
Probate Court
Jurisdiction: probate of wills; appointment of guardians, assignees, executors, administrators and trustees; settlements of incompetents' estates; adoptions; juvenile matters
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: admitted to practice law in state
County Court
Jurisdiction: tort, contract, property cases < $10,000; landlord/tenant cases; class D felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions; violations of local ordinances; small claims < $6,000
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; county resident; admitted to state practice
City Court
Jurisdiction: ordinance violations, misdemeanors, and infractions; civil cases < $500
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: city resident; some cities require judges to be attorneys
Town Court
Jurisdiction: ordinance violations, misdemeanors and infractions; civil cases < $500
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: some towns require judges to be attorneys
Small Claims Court
Jurisdiction: Marion County; tort, contract, property, and landlord/tenant cases < $6,000
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; county resident; admitted to state practice; township resident 1 yr or elected as town court judge before 1999

*Elections for superior court judges in Vanderburgh County are nonpartisan. In Lake and St. Joseph Counties, superior court judges are appointed by the governor from lists of names submitted by local nominating commissions. Judges stand for retention in the first general election held more than two years after their appointment. Superior court judges in Allen County run without party designation in the general election, and vacancies are filled by the governor from a list of names submitted by the Allen County judicial nominating commission.

**Some counties impose addtiional qualifications.

Iowa

The Unified Trial Court Act of 1973 established a unified trial court, the district court. The act abolished more than 500 justice of the peace courts, 899 mayor’s courts, 14 municipal courts, and 34 police courts. In addition to district court judges, the unified district court includes district associate judges, associate juvenile judges, associate probate judges, and judicial magistrates who exercise varying degrees of limited jurisdiction.

Kansas

Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: violations of municipal ordinances and miscellaneous traffic matters; exclusive jurisdiction for ordinance and parking violations
Selection of Judges: appointment by district nominating commission
Retention of Judges: reappointment
Qualifications: high school graduate; county resident; lawyer admitted to practice in state or certified by supreme court after passing examination

Kentucky

District Court
Jurisdiction: juvenile matters; ordinance violations; misdemeanors; traffic violations; probate of wills; felony preliminary hearings; civil cases < $4,000
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; district resident 2 yrs; licensed to practice law 2 yrs

Louisiana

Family Court
Jurisdiction: delinquency cases; adoption proceedings; divorce actions; annulment of marriage; paternity cases; spousal and child support; custody and visitation cases
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: 8 yrs state practice; 1 yr parish resident; law degree; maximum age of 70
Parish Court
Jurisdiction: civil cases < $20,000; criminal cases punishable by fines < $1,000 or imprisonment < 6 months
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: 8 yrs state practice; 1 yr local resident; law degree; maximum age of 70
Juvenile Court
Jurisdiction: delinquency cases; adoption proceedings
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: 8 yrs state practice; 1 yr local resident; law degree; maximum age of 70
Justice of the Peace
Jurisdiction: civil jurisdiction < $3,000 (with some exceptions); property cases < $2,000; landlord/tenant cases < $3,000; eviction cases
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: 2 yrs local resident; 2 yrs state resident; law degree; maximum age 70
City Court
Jurisdiction: civil cases in which the amount in dispute does not exceed between $10,000 and $35,000, depending on the court; ordinance violations; misdemeanors; traffic cases
Selection of Judges: partisan elections
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: 5 yrs state practice; 2 yrs local resident; law degree; maximum age of 70
Mayor's Court
Jurisdiction: violations of municipal ordinances
Selection of Judges: varies
Retention of Judges: varies
Qualifications: 2 yrs local resident; 2 yrs state resident; maximum age 70

Note: Family courts sit in East Baton Rouge. Juvenile courts sit in Caddo, Orleans, Jefferson, and East Baton Rouge. 

Maine

District Court
Jurisdiction: civil cases including monetary damages claims, domestic relations cases, and involuntary commitments; Class D and E criminal offenses; no jury trials
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment with senate confirmation
Retention of Judges: gubernatorial reappointment with senate confirmation
Qualifications: state bar member
Probate Court
Jurisdiction: estates and trusts; adoptions and name changes; guardianship and protective proceedings
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: attorneys admitted to practice in state and residing in state

Maryland

District Court
Jurisdiction: landlord-tenant cases; replevin actions; motor vehicle violations; misdemeanors; certain felonies; small claims < $5,000; shares jurisdiction with circuit court in claims of $5,000 to $25,000
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission w/ senate confirmation
Retention of Judges: reappointment
Qualifications: U.S. and state citizen; registered to vote in state elections; state resident 5 yrs; district resident 6 mos; 30 yrs of age; state bar member; mandatory retirement age of 70
Orphan's Court
Jurisdiction: matters involving probate, guardianships, orphans, and administration of estates
Selection of Judges: partisan election*
Retention of Judges: reelection*
Qualifications: state and city or county resident 1 yr*
*Except in Harford and Montgomery Counties, where circuit court judges are assigned to serve as orphans' court judges.

Massachusetts

District Court
Jurisdiction: wide range of criminal, civil, housing, juvenile, mental health, and other case types
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with executive council approval
Retention of Judges: N/A
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident; state bar member in good standing; 10 yrs legal experience and training*
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: variety of criminal and civil cases within Boston and Suffolk County
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with executive council approval
Retention of Judges: N/A
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident; state bar member in good standing; 10 yrs legal experience and training*
Housing Court
Jurisdiction: use of real property as such use affects health, safety, and welfare and is subject to regulation
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with executive council approval
Retention of Judges: N/A
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident; state bar member in good standing; 10 yrs legal experience and training*
Land Court
Jurisdiction: cases involving real property rights
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with executive council approval
Retention of Judges: N/A
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident; state bar member in good standing; 10 yrs legal experience and training*
Probate Court
Jurisdiction: various family and probate matters; general equity jurisdiction
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with executive council approval
Retention of Judges: N/A
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident; state bar member in good standing; 10 yrs legal experience and training*
Juvenile Court
Jurisdiction: miscellaneous domestic relations cases and juvenile cases
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with executive council approval
Retention of Judges: N/A
Qualifications: N/S

*These qualifications are prescribed in Executive Order 477.

Michigan

District Court
Jurisdiction: civil cases < $25,000 excluding equity; small claims < $3,000; misdemeanors; ordinance violations; felony preliminaries; landlord/tenant or summary proceedings
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: qualified elector of district; licensed to practice law in state; 5 yrs practice of law; less than 70 yrs of age
Probate Court
Jurisdiction: cases involving guardianships, estates, trusts, and the mentally ill
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: qualified elector of district; licensed to practice law in state; 5 yrs practice of law; less than 70 yrs of age
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: civil and landlord/tenant cases < $1,500; conciliation division up to $100; misdemeanors, traffic, and ordinance violations < $500 or 1 yr
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: qualified elector of municipality; licensed to practice law in state; less than 70 yrs of age

Minnesota

Minnesota has a unified judicial system, in which its district court has jurisdiction over all types of cases.

Mississippi

Chancery Court
Jurisdiction: equity matters; domestic matters; guardianships; sanity hearings; wills; challenges to constitutionality of state laws; juvenile cases if no county court
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: practicing attorney 5 yrs; minimum age of 26; state citizen 5 yrs; district resident
County Court
Jurisdiction: civil actions up to $200,000; misdemeanors; felony preliminaries; juvenile cases; appeals de novo
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: practicing attorney 5 yrs; minimum age of 26; state citizen 5 yrs
Justice Court
Jurisdiction: civil actions up to $3,500; misdemeanors; felony preliminaries
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: qualified elector; county and district resident 2 yrs; high school graduate or its equivalent; completion of education and training course and competency exam within 6 mos of taking office
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: municipal ordinance violations; hearings in criminal matters
Selection of Judges: appointment by municipality
Retention of Judges: serve during good behavior
Qualifications: law degree required in cities with populations > 10,000

Missouri

Missouri has a unified judicial system, in which its circuit court has jurisdiction over all types of cases.

Montana

Water Court
Jurisdiction: water rights claims
Selection of Judges: majority vote of a committee composed of district court judges
Retention of Judges: reappointment or redesignation
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident 2 yrs; admitted to practice law in Montana 5 yrs
Workers' Compensation Court
Jurisdiction: issues arising under the Workers' Compensation Act and the Occupational Disease Act
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Retention of Judges: reappointment
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident 2 yrs; admitted to practice law in Montana 5 yrs
City Court
Jurisdiction: tort, contract, real estate rights < $7,000, small claims < $3,000, and domestic violence cases; misdemeanors; traffic violations; preliminary hearings
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election or appointment
Retention of Judges: reelection or reappointment
Qualifications: U.S. citizen and county resident 1 yr
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: tort, contract, real estate rights < $7,000, small claims < $3,000, and domestic violence cases; misdemeanors; traffic violations
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident 2 yrs; county resident 2 yrs; admitted to practice law in Montana 3 yrs
Justice of the Peace
Jurisdiction: tort, contract, real property rights < $7,000, small claims < $3,000, and domestic violence cases; misdemeanors; traffic violations; preliminary hearings
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: U.S. citizen and county resident 1 yr

Nebraska

County Court
Jurisdiction: misdemeanor cases; preliminary hearings in felony cases; civil cases < $45,000; small claims cases < $2,400; probate cases; family law cases; juvenile matters
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment through nominating commission
Retention of Judges: retention election
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; district resident; minimum age of 30; > 5 yrs state practice; state bar member
Juvenile Court
Jurisdiction: juvenile matters; domestic relations cases involving minor children
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment through nominating commission
Retention of Judges: retention election
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; minimum age of 30; >5 yrs state practice; state bar member
Worker's Compensation Court
Jurisdiction: cases involving the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment through nominating commission
Retention of Judges: retention election
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; minimum age of 30; >5 yrs state practice; state bar member
Note: Juvenile courts sit in Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties.

Nevada

Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: violations of traffic and misdemeanor ordinances
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: qualified elector; city resident; licensed and admitted to practice law in state; may not have been removed or retired from judicial office
Justice's Court
Jurisdiction: misdemeanor crime and traffic matters; small claims disputes, evictions, and other civil matters < $10,000
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: qualified elector; township resident; may not have been removed or retired from judicial office; high school diploma or equivalent; in townships of 100,000 or more, licensed and admitted to practice law in state

New Hampshire

District Court
Jurisdiction: misdemeanor and traffic violations; juvenile and domestic violence cases; civil and small claims cases; preliminary hearings in felony cases
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial nomination from selection commission recommendation; appointment by the executive council*
Retention of Judges: N/A
Qualifications: state bar member
Probate Court
Jurisdiction: adoption; termination of parental rights; guardianships; trusts; wills; estates; involuntary commitments
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial nomination from selection commission recommendation; appointment by the executive council*
Retention of Judges: N/A
Qualifications: N/S

*The executive council is a constitutionally authorized, five-member body charged with advising the governor. Council members are chosen every two years in partisan elections.

New Jersey

Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: motor vehicle and traffic violations; quasi-criminal offenses; municipal ordinance violations; fish and game violations; criminal offenses when jury trial waived by defendant; probable cause hearings; actions in eviction
Selection of Judges: mayoral appointment with city council consent or appointment by municipal governing body*
Retention of Judges: same as method of selection; judges serve 3 yr terms without tenure
Qualifications: state resident; practicing attorney > 5 yrs
Tax Court
Jurisdiction: appeals from county boards of taxation; appeals of tax decisions of state, county or municipal officials
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment with senate approval for 7 yr term
Retention of Judges: gubernatorial reappointment with senate approval until age 70
Qualifications: state practice > 10 yrs; special knowledge and experience with taxation matters

*In joint municipal courts, which are courts serving more than one municipality, the appointment is made by the governor with senate approval.

New Mexico

Magistrate
Jurisdiction: tort, contract, and real property rights cases < $10,000; felony preliminary hearings; misdemeanor, DWI/DUI, and other traffic violations
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: qualified elector of district; high school graduate or its equivalent; in districts with populations > 200,000, must be licensed to practice law in state
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: petty misdemeanors; DWI/DUI; traffic violations and other ordinance violations
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: varies by municipality
Probate Court
Jurisdiction: informal probate cases; estate cases
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: ---
Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court
Jurisdiction: tort, contract, and real property rights cases < $10,000; felony preliminary hearings; misdemeanor, DWI/DUI, and other traffic violations
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Retention of Judges: retention election*
Qualifications: state bar member; 3 yrs practice of law in state
*In the first general election after their appointment, judges must win a partisan election to serve the remainder of the unexpired term. Judges stand in retention elections thereafter.

New York

Court of Claims
Jurisdiction: cases against the state
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with senate consent
Retention of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with senate consent
Qualifications: state resident; state practice > 10 yrs; minimum age of 18; mandatory retirement age of 70
Family Court
Jurisdiction: matters involving children and families
Selection of Judges: partisan election*
Retention of Judges: reelection*
Qualifications: state resident; county resident; state practice > 10 yrs; minimum age of 18; mandatory retirement age of 70
Surrogate's Court
Jurisdiction: probate of wills; administration of estates; adoptions
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: state resident; county resident; state practice > 10 yrs; minimum age of 18; mandatory retirement age of 70
Civil Court
Jurisdiction: City of New York; civil cases < $25,000; small claims < $3,000
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: state resident; city resident; state practice > 10 yrs; minimum age of 18; mandatory retirement age of 70
Criminal Court
Jurisdiction: City of New York; misdemeanors; ordinance violations
Selection of Judges: mayoral appointment
Retention of Judges: reappointment
Qualifications: state resident; city resident; state practice > 10 yrs; minimum age of 18; mandatory retirement age of 70
District Court
Jurisdiction: civil cases < $15,000; small claims < $5,000; misdemeanors; ordinance violations
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: state resident; county resident; state practice > 5 yrs; minimum age of 18; mandatory retirement age of 70
City Court
Jurisdiction: civil cases < $15,000; misdemeanors
Selection of Judges: varies
Retention of Judges: varies
Qualifications: state resident; city resident; state practice > 5 yrs; minimum age of 18; mandatory retirement age of 70
Town Court
Jurisdiction: minor civil and criminal matters
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: state resident; local resident; minimum age of 18

Note: District courts are established in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Note: City courts are established in cities outside of New York City.

*Judges of family courts within New York City are appointed by the mayor.

 

North Carolina

District Court
Jurisdiction: civil cases < $10,000; divorce, custody, and child support cases; misdemeanors and infractions
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: licensed to practice law in state; district resident; mandatory retirement age of 72

North Dakota

Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: municipal ordinance violations
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: qualified elector of municipality; municipality resident for more than 9 months; licensed attorney*
*In cities with populations of less than 5,000, judges need not be city residents or licensed attorneys. However, such cities may impose the requirement that judges be licensed attorneys.

Ohio

County Court
Jurisdiction: misdemeanor cases; traffic cases; civil actions up to $15,000
Selection of Judges: election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: county resident; licensed in state; 6 yrs practice of law
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: misdemeanor cases; traffic cases; civil actions up to $15,000
Selection of Judges: election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: resident of municipality; licensed in state; 6 yrs practice of law or service as judge of court of record
Court of Claims
Jurisdiction: all suits against state for personal injury, property damage, contract, and wrongful death; compensation for victims of crime
Selection of Judges: judges assigned by the supreme court; three-judge panels assembled as needed
Retention of Judges: *
Qualifications: *
Mayor's Court
Jurisdiction: misdemeanor cases; traffic cases
Selection of Judges: mayors preside or a magistrate is appointed by mayor
Retention of Judges: mayors determine
Qualifications: mayors determine
*Judge assigned by the supreme court; three-judge panel assembled as needed.

Oklahoma

Municipal Criminal Court of Record
Jurisdiction: city ordinance violation
Selection of Judges: appointed by city governing body
Retention of Judges: appointed by city governing body
Qualifications: state resident; licensed to practice or judge of court of record > 2 yrs
Municipal Court Not of Record
Jurisdiction: city ordinance violations
Selection of Judges: mayoral appointment, with consent of municipal governing body
Retention of Judges: mayoral appointment, with consent of municipal governing body
Qualifications: licensed to practice in state
Worker's Compensation Court
Jurisdiction: injury compensation claims
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from judicial nominating committee
Retention of Judges: gubernatorial reappointment
Qualifications: law degree

Oregon

Tax Court
Jurisdiction: cases involving state tax laws
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election*
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident 3 yrs; state bar member; mandatory retirement age of 75
County Court
Jurisdiction: juvenile and probate matters
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election*
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state elector; county resident 1 yr
Justice Court
Jurisdiction: civil matters < $5,000; concurrent jurisdiction with circuit court over criminal, civil, and traffic cases except for felony trials
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election*
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident 3 yrs; resident of justice court district 1 yr
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: municipal ordinance violations; state liquor law violations; nonfelonious state traffic offenses
Selection of Judges: appointed by city council/elected
Retention of Judges: reappointment/reelection
Qualifications: determined by city council or city charter
*The two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes in the primary election compete in the general election.

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: criminal matters; civil cases < $10,000; arraignments; warrants
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: retention election
Qualifications: 1 yr local resident; minimum age of 21; maximum age of 70; state bar member
Philadelphia Traffic Court
Jurisdiction: all summary offenses arising under the Motor Vehicle Code and related city ordinances
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: retention election
Qualifications: 1 yr local resident; minimum age of 21; maximum age of 70; must be state bar member or complete training course and pass exam
Magisterial District Judge Court
Jurisdiction: nonjury trials concerning criminal summary matters; civil claims < $8,000; landlord-tenant, assumpsit, and trespass actions; preliminary hearings and arraignments
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: 1 yr local resident; minimum age of 21; maximum age of 70; must be state bar member or complete training course and pass exam

Rhode Island

Family Court
Jurisdiction: juvenile, adult, and domestic relations cases
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with senate confirmation
Retention of Judges: NA
Qualifications: attorney; licensed in state; state bar member in good standing
District Court
Jurisdiction: criminal cases; civil cases < $10,000
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with senate confirmation
Retention of Judges: NA
Qualifications: attorney; licensed in state; state bar member in good standing
Traffic Court
Jurisdiction: all non-criminal matters involving traffic cases
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with senate confirmation
Retention of Judges: NA
Qualifications: attorney; licensed in state; state bar member in good standing
Worker's Compensation Court
Jurisdiction: all controversies regarding workers' compensation claims
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with senate confirmation
Retention of Judges: N/A
Qualifications: attorney; licensed in state; state bar member in good standing

South Carolina

Probate Court
Jurisdiction: wills, trusts, and estates; issues marriage licenses; guardianship and concurrent jurisdiction with circuit court for power of attorney cases
Selection of Judges: popular/partisan election
Retention of Judges: popular/partisan election
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; qualified elector of county; > 21 yrs old; 4 yr bachelor's or 4 yrs experience as employee in probate judge's office
Family Court
Jurisdiction: exclusive jurisdiction in domestic cases
Selection of Judges: legislative election
Retention of Judges: legislative election
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident 5 yrs; circuit resident; 32-72 yrs old; licensed attorney 8 yrs
Magistrate
Jurisdiction: civil to $7500, criminal to 30 days and/or $500 fine, bail, preliminary hearings, issue search and arrest warrants
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment with advice and consent of senate
Retention of Judges: gubernatorial appointment with advice and consent of senate
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident 5 yrs; 21-72 yrs old; 2 yr associate's degree
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: criminal to 30 days and/or $500 fine; municipal ordinances
Selection of Judges: appointed by municipality
Retention of Judges: appointed by municipality
Qualifications: NA
Masters in Equity Court
Jurisdiction: grants equitable relief, probate deeds, judicial sale of land
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment with advice and consent of general assembly
Retention of Judges: gubernatorial appointment with advice and consent of general assembly
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident 5 yrs; 32-72 yrs old; licensed attorney 8 yrs

South Dakota

Magistrate
Jurisdiction: receive depositions; issue warrants; conduct preliminary hearings; set bail; appoint counsel; trials of criminal misdemeanors; trials of small claims actions < $8,000; trials of civil actions < $10,000*
Selection of Judges: appointment by presiding circuit judge with supreme court approval**
Retention of Judges: reappointment**
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident; voting resident within circuit; magistrate judges must be licensed attorneys; lay magistrates must be high school graduates

*The jurisdiction of courts presided over by lay magistrates is more limited than that of courts presided over by magistrate judges.

**Lay magistrates are appointed by the presiding circuit judge and serve at the pleasure of the presiding circuit judge, while magistrate judges serve four-year terms.

Tennessee

General Sessions Court
Jurisdiction: civil < $15,000; landlord/tenant; recovery of personal property < $25,000; equity < $1,500; misdemeanors; preliminary hearings
Selection of Judges: partisan election*
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: authorized to practice law in state; minimum age of 30; state resident 5 yrs and 1 yr district resident
Juvenile Court
Jurisdiction: adults contributing to delinquency of minor; juvenile
Selection of Judges: partisan election*
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: authorized to practice law in state; minimum age of 30; state resident 5 yrs and 1 yr district resident
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: city ordinance violations
Selection of Judges: partisan election*
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: authorized to practice law in state; minimum age of 30; state resident 5 yrs and 1 yr district resident
*Per statute, each county legislative body has the discretion to require elections to be conducted in a nonpartisan manner.

Texas

Constitutional County Court
Jurisdiction: probate cases; class A and class B misdemeanors; civil cases $200-$5,000; appellate jurisdiction in cases from justice of the peace and municipal courts, except in counties with county courts at law
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: well informed in state law
County Court at Law
Jurisdiction: jurisdiction varies by county; generally, all civil, criminal, original, and appellate jurisdiction prescribed by law for constitutional county courts; also civil cases up to $100,000 (some courts have higher jurisdiction amounts).
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: 25 yrs of age; county resident 2 yrs; licensed in state; practicing lawyer and/or state judge 4 yrs
Probate Court
Jurisdiction: probate matters; guardianship cases; mental health commitments
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: law degree required
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: violations of city ordinances; class C misdemeanors; search and arrest warrants; cases involving owners of dangerous dogs
Selection of Judges: election or appointment, according to municipality charter
Retention of Judges: reelection or reappointment, according to municipality charter
Qualifications: varies according to municipality charters
Justice of the Peace
Jurisdiction: misdemeanors punishable by fines; civil matters > $5,000; search and arrest ordinances; small claims
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: within one year of election, must complete a 40-hour course on duties; must also complete 20-hour course each year

Note: The legislature created county courts at law in larger counties to aid the constitutional county court in its judicial functions.

Note: The statutory probate courts are located in the six largest metropolitan areas.

Utah

Juvenile Court
Jurisdiction: matters relating to juveniles
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission w/ senate confirmation
Retention of Judges: retention election
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident 3 yrs; 25 yrs of age; admitted to practice law in state
Justice Court
Jurisdiction: class B and C misdemeanors; ordinance violations; small claims < $5,000; infractions
Selection of Judges: county judges appointed by county commission/municipal judges appointed by city officials
Retention of Judges: retention election/reappointment
Qualifications: must attend 30 hrs of continuing judicial education each yr
Note: There are two types of justice courts: municipal justice courts and county justice courts.

Vermont

Child Support Magistrate
Jurisdiction: divorce, juvenile, domestic abuse, and child support cases
Selection of Judges: superior and district court judges sit by assignment of the administrative judge of trial courts
Retention of Judges: ---
Qualifications: attorney who has practiced law or served as judge in state > 5 of last 10 yrs; mandatory retirement at 70
Probate Court
Jurisdiction: probate of wills, settlement of estates, adoptions, guardianships, name changes, uniform gifts to minors
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: N/S
Environmental Court
Jurisdiction: appeals of Act 250 enforcement orders, appeals of zoning decisions
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission with senate consent
Retention of Judges: vote of general assembly
Qualifications: attorney admitted to practice before supreme court
Judicial Bureau
Jurisdiction: civil violation complaints, violations of municipal ordinances
Selection of Judges: administrative judge appoints state bar members as hearing officers; appointed to four-year terms
Retention of Judges: --
Qualifications: state bar member

Virginia

General District Court
Jurisdiction: civil cases < $15,000; violations of ordinances and county/city by-laws; misdemeanors; traffic offenses; preliminary hearings; no jury trials
Selection of Judges: legislative election*
Retention of Judges: legislative reelection
Qualifications: state and local resident; state bar member 5 yrs; maximum age of 70
Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts
Jurisdiction: juvenile and domestic relations cases
Selection of Judges: legislative election*
Retention of Judges: legislative reelection
Qualifications: state and local resident; state bar member 5 yrs; maximum age of 70
*Vacancies occurring when the general assembly is not in session are filled by the circuit court judges of the corresponding circuit. Appointees must be confirmed at the next legislative session.

Washington

District Court
Jurisdiction: county-wide jurisdiction over misdemeanor criminal cases, traffic, non-traffic, and parking infractions; domestic violence protection orders; civil actions<$50,000; small claims
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: registered voter of district; one of the following: licensed to practice in state, elected and served in state as district judge, municipal judge, police judge, or justice of the peace, or passed a qualifying exam (in districts of < 5000)
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: violations of municipal or city ordinances
Selection of Judges: election or appointment
Retention of Judges: reelection or reappointment
Qualifications: U.S. citizen and state resident; licensed to practice in state (except municipalities of <5000)

West Virginia

Family Court
Jurisdiction: cases involving divorce, annulment, separate maintenance, paternity, grandparent visitation, and issues involving allocation of parental responsibility and family support proceedings; final hearings in domestic violence civil proceedings; performs marriages
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: state citizen; circuit resident; minimum age of 30; 5 yrs practice of law in state
Magistrate
Jurisdiction: arrest and search warrants; misdemeanors; preliminary examinations in felony case; civil cases < $5,000; emergency protective orders in domestic violence cases
Selection of Judges: partisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: county resident; minimum age of 21; high school degree or equivalent; do not need to be lawyers; must complete course in rudimentary principles of law and procedure
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: ordinance violations
Selection of Judges: varies by municipality
Retention of Judges: varies by municipality
Qualifications: do not need to be lawyers; must complete course in rudimentary principles of law and procedure

Wisconsin

Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: ordinance violations
Selection of Judges: nonpartisan election
Retention of Judges: reelection
Qualifications: must participate in a continuing judicial education program as required by the Supreme Court; individual municipalities may require a law degree

Wyoming

Circuit Court
Jurisdiction: misdemeanor criminal cases; civil cases < $7,000; family violence cases; bail and preliminary hearings
Selection of Judges: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Retention of Judges: retention election
Qualifications: admitted to the state bar; qualified elector of the state
Municipal Court
Jurisdiction: municipal ordinance violations
Selection of Judges: appointed by mayor with consent of municipal council
Retention of Judges: varies by municipality
Qualifications: law degree not required