Courts in Alabama
Alabama's state court system is divided into three levels of jurisdiction. The appeals courts preside over appeals of decisions made by the lower courts. The general courts have jurisdiction over most legal matters in Alabama, and can be appealed to from the lower courts. The limited courts operate at the county and city level.
The Supreme Court is Alabama's highest court and has the authority to review the decisions reached by the lower courts. The Supreme Court is also authorized to review matters of contention where the dollar amount in question exceeds $50,000 (if no other Alabama court has jurisdiction).
This court considers civil matters, including those related to domestic situations such as divorce, adoptions, child custody, etc. They will rule on cases appealed from certain state administrative agencies, such as worker's compensation. The Court of Civil Appeals also has jurisdiction in civil appeals where the amount in controversy does not exceed $50,000.
The Court of Criminal Appeals considers appeals from felony and misdemeanor trials/convictions.
There are 41 Circuit Courts in Alabama. These courts are where the majority of legal matters in Alabama can be addressed. The Circuit Courts have jurisdiction over all felony prosecutions and in proceedings where the disputed amount is more than $10,000. They may also exercise jurisdiction in juvenile courts, in proceedings where the disputed amount is more than $3,000, and in certain appeals from lower courts.
Courts of limited jurisdiction
The limited jurisdiction courts in Alabama oversee such matters as probate, juvenile justice, small claims court, municipal court and district courts. Alabama's 67 counties are divided into 41 judicial circuits. Courts of limited jurisdiction are found in each county.
Municipal courts preside over cases involving municipal violations and criminal misdemeanors that fall within a city's police jurisdiction. Most Alabama cities have a municipal court.
Each county has one of the following:
Probate courts deal with estate issues like wills, real property, adoption and so on.
Juvenile courts have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases where parties involved are under the age of 18. Alone among Alabama court systems, the juvenile court proceedings are considered confidential.
Small Claims Court
Small claims court is where cases concerning matters of less than $3,000 are taken.
District courts handle the cases where the dollar amount in question is more than $3,000 (small claims) but less than $10,000 (circuit court). District courts also have jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanors and preliminary hearings in felony prosecutions.
Judges per court
- The Alabama Supreme Court, the state's court of last resort, has nine justices.
- The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. This court was established in 1969 and has five judges who are elected to six-year terms on the court in partisan elections.
- The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. This court was established in 1969 and has five judges who are elected to six-year terms on the court in partisan elections.
- The Alabama Circuit Courts. These are the trial courts in the state of general jurisdiction. There are 40 such courts in the state, and they are served by 131 judges.
- 68 Alabama Probate Courts.
- 67 Alabama District Courts, served by 98 judges.
- 256 Alabama Municipal Courts, served by 228 judges.
The federal district courts in Alabama are:
- United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama
- United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
- United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama
Each of these courts has a corresponding bankruptcy court:
- United States bankruptcy court, Southern District of Alabama
- United States bankruptcy court, Northern District of Alabama
- United States bankruptcy court, Middle District of Alabama
Rulings by these courts can be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Judge Tracy S. McCooey was responsible for the launching of restorative justice programs in Montgomery, Alabama. The programs focus on personal interaction. She emphasized how important the judge’s role is in transforming lives and how there is a need for action and connection outside the courtroom.
- Alabama State Bar, "Alabama's Court System brochure"
- Alabama's Court System, "Courts of Limited Jurisdiction section"
- Alabama judicial system, "Chart"
- Fairnessworks.com, "A Visionary Judge Makes Restorative Justice Come Alive in Alabama," April 28, 2011
- Cutting Edge Law, "Judge Tracy McCooey: Maverick in Problem-Solving Courts and Restorative Justice"