COURTS OF ARIZONA
The Arizona courts follows a three level hierarchy:
- Courts of Limited jurisdiction,
- Superior Courts and
LIMITED JURISDICTION COURTS
Limited jurisdiction courts are peace and municipal (or city) courts. These courts have jurisdiction over a limited variety of cases. They are non-record courts, meaning that permanent records of court proceedings are not required. However, some courts do make a record of proceedings. They handle minor traffic violations and minor crimes.
Civil jurisdiction limited to cases involving $5,000 or less.
Municipal courts are also known as a city court or magistrate court. Municipal courts have criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanor crimes and petty offenses committed in their city or town.
They share jurisdiction with justice courts over violations of state law committed within their city or town limits.
Municipal court judges (magistrates) hear misdemeanor criminal traffic cases such as driving under the influence of alcohol, hit-and-run and reckless driving where no serious injuries occur.
They hear civil traffic cases, violations of city ordinances and codes, and issue orders of protection and injunctions prohibiting harassment. They can also issue search warrants.
The Peace Courts
The territorial jurisdiction of the justice of the peace courts of each county is set by the board of supervisors of that county known as precincts, of that county.
Justice of the peace courts hear traffic cases and certain criminal and civil cases, including domestic violence and harassment cases.
The court can issue search warrants. The civil jurisdiction is limited to cases involving claims less than $10,000
Justice courts share jurisdiction with the superior court in cases of landlord/tenant disputes where damages are between $5,000 and $10,000.
They can hear matters regarding possession of, but not title to, real property. Disputes involving amounts greater than $10,000 must be filed in the Superior Court.
When conducting preliminary hearings on felonies, justice court judges may require defendants to answer criminal charges in superior court. They may dismiss charges if there is no probable cause to believe the defendant is guilty.
Justice courts also have criminal jurisdiction over:
- petty offenses and misdemeanors;
- assault or battery-less serious offenses not committed on a public officer while performing his or her duties;
- breaches of peace and committing a willful injury to property;
- misdemeanors and criminal offenses punishable by fines not more than $2,500, or imprisonment in county jail, not more than six months, or both fine and imprisonment; and,
felonies for the purpose of issuing warrants and conducting preliminary hearings.
The Superior Court handles matters such as serious criminal cases and divorce cases.
The general jurisdiction court is the Superior Court of Arizona, a statewide trial court. This court hears the widest variety of cases and keeps permanent records of court proceedings.
All civil cases in which the amount in controversy exceeds the sum of $5,000, exclusive of interest and costs.
Credit and collection matters are generally within the jurisdiction of the Superior Court and the Justice Courts.
The Arizona Constitution provides the superior court with jurisdiction over:
- cases and proceedings in which exclusive jurisdiction is not vested by law in another court;
- equity cases that involve title to or possession of real property or the legality of any tax, assessment, toll or municipal ordinance;
- other cases in which the value of property in question is $1,000 or more, exclusive of interest and costs;
- criminal cases amounting to a felony, and misdemeanor cases not otherwise provided for by law;
- forcible entry and detainer actions (evictions of renters);
- proceedings in insolvency (however, bankruptcy is handled in federal court);
- actions to prevent or stop nuisances;
- matters of probate (wills, estates);
- dissolution or annulment of marriages (divorces);
- naturalization and the issuance of appropriate documents for these events; and,
special cases and proceedings not otherwise provided for, and such other jurisdiction as may be provided by law.
Appellate Court Role of the Superior Court
The superior court acts as an appellate court for justice and municipal courts.
The superior court probation department supervises adults and juveniles on probation.
Counties with more than one superior court judge also have a special juvenile court. One or more superior court judges are assigned to hear all juvenile cases involving delinquency, incorrigibility and dependency. Juvenile traffic cases may be heard by a court other than the juvenile court (if the presiding juvenile court judge allows it).
The Tax Court is having jurisdiction over all questions of law and fact relating to disputes involving the imposition, assessment or collection of Arizona taxes.
A taxpayer may choose to use the small claims division of the Tax Court for certain cases. The small claims division hears disputes concerning
- the valuation or classification of class five property, or
- where the full cash value of all real and personal property does not exceed $300,000.
all tax cases in which the amount of taxes, interest at the time of assessment, and penalties is less than $5,000.
There is no right to appeal the decision of the Tax Court's small claims division.
Arizona statutes require arbitration in most civil cases not exceeding $50,000. These cases are heard by one to three arbitrators who are attorneys appointed by the court. Hearings are conducted in an informal sitting and manner that saves money and reduces the number of cases in trial courts. They listen to both sides and make decisions based on the law. Arbitration decisions can be appealed, but usually are not. When a decision is appealed, the case is heard from the start (trial de novo) in superior court.
The appellate courts means either a
- Court of Appeals or
The Supreme Court
COURT OF APPEALS
The Court of Appeals decides cases in panels of three judges, called departments. The Arizona Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court for the State of Arizona. The Court of Appeals decides appeals in many types of cases such as
- to consider appeals in civil cases from superior court
appeals in criminal matters from superior court, except when a death sentence has been imposed, those cases go directly to the Supreme Court of Arizona.
The Court of Appeals also reviews:
juvenile and domestic relations matters from the superior court,
- workers' compensation and unemployment benefits decisions,
- tax court decisions, and
certain corporation commission decisions
The court also decide "petitions for special action," which is Arizona's term for petitions for special writs, such as certiorari, mandamus and prohibition.
If people disagree with the court's decision in their case, they may "appeal" the case to the appellate courts - the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
The state appellate courts have jurisdiction to review trials and decisions appealed to them.
Most appeals come from the superior court, except for death penalty appeals and some cases involving elected officials and disputes between counties, which go directly to the Supreme Court.
To appeal a decision from the court of appeals, the appellant must file a Petition for Review requesting a Supreme Court hearing.
The Supreme Court judges, known as justices, evaluate the petitions for review and decide whether they will review the case. Unlike the court of appeals, the Supreme Court is not required to hear every appeal.
The Constitution provides that the Supreme Court shall have:
- Original jurisdiction of habeas corpus, and quo warranto, mandamus, injunction and other extraordinary writs to state officers.
- Original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine causes between counties concerning disputed boundaries and surveys thereof or concerning claims of one county against another.
- Appellate jurisdiction in all actions and proceedings except civil and criminal actions originating in courts not of record, unless the action involves the validity of a tax, impost, assessment, toll, statute or municipal ordinance.
- Power to issue injunctions and writs of mandamus, review, prohibition, habeas corpus, certiorari, and all other writs necessary and proper to the complete exercise of its appellate and revisory jurisdiction.
- Power to make rules relative to all procedural matters in any court.
- Such other jurisdiction as may be provided by law.