AlabamasPublicRecords.com - State of Alabama's Court System
What you should know about Alabama's Court Systems:
Alabama’s court system is four-tiered. At the bottom is a trio of courts for district, municipal and probate cases.
The second level of the system is Circuit Court, the state’s court of general jurisdiction. Stepping up one rung brings a case to either the Court of Civil Appeals or Court of Criminal Appeals, depending upon its nature. And, the system is capped by the state Supreme Court.
As the state’s highest court, the Supreme Court has both judicial and administrative duties. Sometimes the court will sit “en banc,” that being all nine together, but occasionally the court will hear matters in a panel of five.
It has the authority to review decisions rendered by other courts in the state, and the authority to determine certain legal matters directly over which no other court has jurisdiction. The Alabama Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all appeals where the amount in controversy exceeds $50,000, and appeals from the Alabama Public Service Commission, as well.
The court has discretionary jurisdiction over most criminal appeals, but it is mandatory that the court review appeals in capital punishment cases.
The chief justice becomes the administrative head of the state judicial system. The Supreme Court makes rules governing the administration and procedure of all courts and the practice of law in Alabama.
Justices are elected by the voting public on a statewide ballot.
Court of Criminal Appeals
The Court of Criminal Appeals is composed of five judges who sit as a group, or “en banc,” to hear appeals of all felony and misdemeanor cases, including violations of city ordinances, and all post-conviction writs in criminal cases.
Those judges elect one of their number, presently Pamela Willis Baschab, to serve as the presiding judge.
The court has mandatory jurisdiction over all capital appeals, general criminal cases, and juvenile cases. It has original jurisdiction over some matters and interlocutory decision-making power, as well. The court does not, however, have discretionary jurisdiction over appeals. It must hear the case on appeal; it cannot deny the case as can the Supreme Court.
Court of Civil Appeals
The court’s most senior judge is its presiding judge. That distinction is presently bestowed upon William C. Thompson.
The civil appeals court holds jurisdiction in all civil appeals where the amount in controversy does not exceed $50,000. The Supreme Court may order transferred to the Court of Civil Appeals certain cases that are appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Court of Civil Appeals also holds jurisdiction over all appeals from administrative agencies in which a judgment was rendered in Circuit Court. The court also exercises jurisdiction over workmen’s compensation cases and family matters, including annulment, divorce, alimony, child support, adoption and child custody cases.
Alabama’s counties are split into 41 Circuit Court divisions with 142 judges.
The court has jurisdiction over felony, misdemeanor, and DWI/DUI cases, and juvenile matters. It has exclusive criminal appeals jurisdiction over rulings made in the lower courts. It hears domestic relations cases, as well. On the civil front, the court deals with tort disputes, contract disputes, real property rights issues of $3,000 or more and also fields civil appeals from lower courts.
At the Circuit Court level, jury trials are allowed. That is not the case for most Alabama courts.
The District Court system in Alabama is comprised of 67 districts employing 102 judges.
The court’s jurisdiction includes tort claims, contract disputes, real property rights cases valued between $3,000 and $10,000, cases of interstate support, felony and misdemeanor crimes, DWI and DUI, moving traffic violations and miscellaneous additional traffic offenses, juvenile cases and preliminary hearings in criminal matters.
The District Court system does not conduct any jury trials.
Alabama’s towns and cities maintain some 258 Municipal Court locations with about 174 judges.
Municipal Court jurisdictions in Alabama include misdemeanor crimes and DWI/DUI, moving traffic violations, parking violations and miscellaneous other traffic infractions. These courts have exclusive jurisdiction over the violation of city codes and ordinances in the communities in which they are located.
There are no jury trials in Municipal Court.
Alabama’s Probate Court system has 68 courtrooms and a like number of judges seated to hear cases involving an individual’s mental health, estates and real property rights. These courts also field cases involving adoptions.
There are no jury trials in Probate Court.
Traffic Service Center
Alabama’s court Web site maintains a Traffic Service Center that allows users to click a map and select the county in which their traffic case is being heard.
The state also allows traffic tickets to be paid online via AlaPay.com.
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