Alabamians who are facing legal issues often wonder where they can go to obtain relief. The best way to determine this is to first learn a little bit about how the state's court system is structured.
Lower Level Courts
There are three "lower level” courts in Alabama:
- District Court, which handles torts, small claims, family, and juvenile matters
- Probate Court-where cases concerning estates and adoptions are heard
- Municipal Court, which primarily handles cases dealing with traffic infractions and municipal ordinance violations.
Upon appeal, cases in district, probate, or municipal court will be referred to one of the state's 41 circuit courts. Alabama's circuit courts are courts of general jurisdiction, meaning they have the authority to hear many types of cases. A few cases that might be heard in circuit court include:
- Tort, contract, and real property claims with an amount greater than $10,000
- Domestic relations
Cases decided in circuit court may be appealed at either the:
- Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals-This court is responsible for felony and misdemeanor appeals, including post-conviction writs and death penalty appeals.
- Alabama Court of Civil Appeals-Having jurisdiction over administrative agency appeals, this court also handles appeals in domestic relations and worker’s compensation. Civil cases in which the amount in question is less than $50,000 are heard by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals as well.
Supreme Court of Alabama
The Alabama Supreme Court is the final say in both criminal and civil matters, including administrative agency decisions. It has exclusive jurisdiction over civil matters where the amount in question exceeds $50,000.
Nine justices make up the Supreme Court. of Alabama. The Chief Justice is an elected official, and oversees the remaining eight justices.
Alabama's multi-tiered court system ensures an orderly legal process, while giving citizens multiple chances to have their voices heard. If you are seeking relief, the above information will help you better navigate through the system.
Municipal Court / District Court / Circuit Court / Supreme Court of Alabama / Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals / Alabama Court of Civil Appeals