Alaska District Court
The Alaska District Court is a trial court of limited jurisdiction in Alaska. It was created in 1959 and has twenty-one judges. Decisions of this district court can be appealed to the Alaska Superior Court or, in some cases, to the Alaska Court of Appeals. Taken together, the Alaska Superior Court and the Alaska District Court are where nearly all Alaskan civil and criminal lawsuits are filed, except for a rare case that may go directly to the Alaska Supreme Court.
Judges in the Alaska District Court system:
- Hear state misdemeanor cases, and cases regarding violations of city and borough ordinances
- Issue summonses, arrest warrants and search warrants
- Hear first appearances and preliminary hearings in felony cases
- Record vital statistics (in some areas of the state)
- Hear civil cases valued up to $100,000
- Hear small claims case ($10,000 maximum)
- Handle cases involving children on an emergency basis
- Hear domestic violence cases
There are four judicial districts in Alaska with 21 District Court judges between them.
District court judges
Appointment and retention
District court judges are appointed to office through the Alaska Judicial Council. Once they are on the court, they must run in a retention election at the first general election that is held more than two years after the appointment. Thereafter, they must run for retention every four years.
Voters are eligible to vote in a retention election for a district court judge if they are otherwise eligible to vote, and are registered in that judge's district.
To serve as a judge in the Alaska District Court system, these qualifications must be met:
Magistrate judges are allowed to preside over some district court cases. Magistrates are generally appointed in areas of the state where a full-time district court judge isn't needed. Magistrates can serve in more than one such location. Magistrates can also be appointed in metropolitan areas to handle routine matters, thus easing the overall work load of the state's district court judges.
Magistrate judges are appointed by the presiding judge of the judicial district where they will serve, and they serve at the pleasure of the presiding judge.
Appealing the court's decisions
Civil appeals from the district court go to the Alaska Superior Court in most cases.
At the option of the defendant, criminal appeals from the district court can be taken to the Alaska Superior Court or to the Alaska Court of Appeals. A defendant who first appeals to the Alaska Superior Court may later wants the Alaska Court of Appeals to review the superior court's decision. The Alaska Court of Appeals may take such appeals but is not required to do so.