Sometimes people are confused by the different types of courts available in our state. Following is a brief explanation of each court’s purpose. I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Small Claims Court: This is the lowest court and is a part of the JP (Justice of the Peace) court. It is a trial court that hears cases having a value of less than $2,500.00. No attorneys are allowed to practice in small claims court.
Justice Court (a/k/a JP Court): This is a trial court that is one step above small claims court that deals with cases having a value beyond the Small Claims Court’s $2,500.00 jurisdictional limit but less than $10,000.00. Attorneys can practice in Justice Court. This court also handles misdemeanor cases occurring outside the jurisdiction of a City or Municipal Court and some of the preliminary hearings in criminal felony cases.
Superior Court: This is the highest trial court in the State with each county having a superior court (i.e. Maricopa County Superior Court). Jurisdiction for this court involves cases with values over $10,000.00. This is also the trial court for all criminal felony matters.
Court of Appeals: This is not a trial court but rather an appellate court where litigants can appeal trial court decisions when they feel the trial judge has made a mistake concerning the law. If the Court of Appeals agrees that the trial judge made a legal mistake, the case is reversed and remanded back to the trial court (Superior Court) with specific instructions or for retrial.
Supreme Court: Highest court in the State. This is not a trial court but rather an appellate court. It affords a secondary appeal from a trial court decision after it has been reviewed by the Court of Appeals. Generally, appellate courts (Supreme Court and Court of Appeals) review whether the trial judge made a mistake regarding the law. A litigant can file an appeal (called a “Petition for Review” at this level) with this court if they are not satisfied with the Court of Appeals decision, however, there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will hear the case as they have a right to reject the appeal. If the appeal is accepted and the Court of Appeals decision is reversed, the case is remand back to the trial court with specific instructions or for retrial.
Note: Many towns and cities have a Municipal Court or City Court where criminal misdemeanors and city ordinance violations are handled. This is also referred to as a trial court.
Richard K. DePonte
Disclaimer: This blog is for information purposes only. Legal advice is provided only through a formal, written attorney/client agreement.