Utah Court System

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The Utah judiciary is divided across 6 levels of which the first four rungs comprise of trial courts in which a jury or a judge decides on various criminal and civil matters based on the evidence presented by the lawyers on both sides. The last two levels of the judicial system which are actually at the top of the hierarchy are made of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Utah. These are revisionary tribunals with the Supreme Court being the apex judicial entity in the state. Each of these courts has its own jurisdiction

The District Courts: These are tribunals of general jurisdiction and as such they are authorized to handle both civil and criminal cases. In fact, they have original jurisdiction in such matters unless otherwise prescribed by the constitution of the state. Small claims cases form a significant percentage of the cases heard by these tribunals. In terms of such cases, the district courts are allowed to hear matters where the disputed amount does not go beyond $10,000.

Apart from this, district tribunals also handle domestic relation cases, criminal matters including homicides, assaults, sex and narcotics charges and misdemeanor cases. District Courts also have appellate jurisdiction in matters that are forwarded from administrative agencies. These courts are served by 71 full time judges.

Juvenile courts: As their name suggests, these are tribunals with specialized jurisdiction as they can only hear matters pertaining to minor offenders. These tribunals also handle cases linked to the abuse , neglect and abandonment of children. The court has the authority to determine child support, custody and visitation. At this point, 29 full time judges serve in juvenile courts all over the state. Appeals from the juvenile court are taken up by the Court of Appeals.

Justice Courts: These tribunals are established to handle Class B and C misdemeanors, civic ordinance violations and small claims and infractions within municipalities and counties. The geographical jurisdiction of these tribunals lies within the area that they are located in. These courts are often approached for the issue of arrest warrants and preliminary hearings in criminal matters. There 134 justice courts across UT which are served by 108 judges some of who work in both the municipal as well as county courts.

The Court of Appeals: This is the intermediate appellate court in the state which hears appeals against decisions made by juvenile and district courts. However, the Court of Appeals will not accept cases involving capital punishment. This tribunal is served by 7 judges each serving a 6 year renewable term. Sessions of the appellate court are generally conducted at Salt Lake City but several times every year, the court travels to various geographical locations within the state.

The judges of the Court of Appeals are prohibited from sitting en banc that is all 7 judges together to decide on a matter. Generally cases are heard by panels of 3 judges during the third and fourth week of every month. Arguments are allowed to be made by both sides and the opinion of the court is subsequently offered in writing. The decisions of the Court of Appeals can only be repealed by the Supreme Court.

The Court of Last Resort: The Supreme Court of Utah is rightly called as such because it is the ultimate judicial authority in the state. This tribunal primarily hears revisionary petitions from the Court of Appeals, complex civil case appeals, matters that are initiated against or by state agencies and first degree capital felony matters. The Supreme Court comprises of 5 justices who are appointed to 10 year renewable terms.