What Court Will Hear My Case?
In Mississippi, we have different court systems that handle different types of cases. Here is a simple explanation on the differences:
Family and Land Cases
Divorces, child custody issues, wills and probate, land dispute and other similar cases are held in what we call the chancery court. These cases are decided by a single judge, or chancellor, in most cases. Sometimes estate trials are heard by a jury in chancery court. Each county has its own chancery court.
Criminal matters are charged as either misdemeanor or felony. Misdemeanors are lower level offenses such as traffic tickets, DUI 1st and 2nd, simple assault, low level drug possession, and similar offenses. Most misdemeanors carry penalties of fines and/or jail time of up to six months. If the charge arises within city limits and is charged by a city police officer, the case is heard by the city court. If the charge arises outside of city limits and is charged by a sheriff’s deputy, the case is heard in a justice court.
Interestingly, in Mississippi, municipal judges must have a law degree, but justice court judges do not.
Felony charges are more serious offenses, and the penalty depends on the offense. Felonies will usually start in a city or justice court, but are ultimately handled by circuit courts. Each county has a circuit court system and cases are managed by a circuit judge, but decided by juries. There are some exceptions to the jury rule in circuit court.
Civil cases are generally cases where a person has been harmed in some way that has caused monetary damage. There are many different types of civil cases, but the easiest example is a car wreck case. These cases are generally heard in either a county court or a circuit court depending on the amount of damage. $250,000 or less in alleged damage would be heard by a county court. If alleged damages are larger, the case would be heard by a circuit court.
Workers’ compensation cases are heard by a totally separate court system called the Workers’ Compensation Commission. If someone gets hurt at work, with few exceptions, the only claim they can make is through this system. The rules and damages allowed are very different than in a general, civil case.
All of the above types of cases have some means of appealing decisions to higher courts. The appellate process will be discussed at a later date.
I hope this helps. Everyone stay safe, and as always, if I can help in any way please let me know.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; its the courage to continue that counts.” -Winston Churchill