Four Things to Know About District Court
The legal system is not always as simple as we would like for it to be. In my experience, most people who are not regularly involved in the legal industry have little to no knowledge about the various levels of the courts. The Arkansas Courts have four levels: district court, circuit court, court of appeals and supreme court. The one that seems most often forgotten is district court. Here are four things you should know about the district courts:
- The Arkansas district courts have limited jurisdiction. The district courts generally only have jurisdiction over traffic violations, misdemeanors offenses, violations of state law and local ordinances, preliminary felony matters, and civil matters involving contracts, damage to personal property and recovery of personal property where the amount in controversy does not exceed $25,000.00. You may represent yourself through the small claims division in district court on matters involving contracts, damage to personal property and recovery of personal property where the amount in controversy does not exceed $5,000.00.
- The rules of civil procedure and evidence do generally apply. There are some rules/modified rules that apply specifically to district courts. And the small claims division will operate with relaxed rules of evidence. But if you have a case in district court you must be aware that you still have rules that you will be expected to follow.
- There is no right to a jury trial in district court. This does not mean that you cannot have a trial, it just means that you will have what is called a bench trial. In bench trials, a judge will be deciding your case.
- You have a right to appeal the case to circuit court. There are certain procedures and timeline requirements, but generally, you have a right to appeal a district court’s decision to the circuit court. At the circuit court level you can have a new trial, and, in applicable cases, a jury trial.
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