Although Alaska’s District Courts are the lowest trial courts for the state, they are an essential piece of the judicial system. Alaska has 23 District Courts, and judges. The system dates back to 1959 when it was created. These courts have limited jurisdiction in the state. When cases from District Court are appealed, they usually go to the Superior Court but in some cases can go directly to the Court of Appeals. The Superior and District Courts are where most all civil and criminal cases in the state are held.
The types of cases that are resolved within the District Courts are local city and borough ordinance violations, misdemeanors, civil cases where the damages are $100,000 or less. They also hear small claims cases where the value is up to $10,000. They also handle domestic abuse matters, issue summonses as well as arrest and search warrants. District Courts may also handle preliminary hearings for some felony cases. Some District Courts are responsible for recording vital statistics.
District Courts hear the majority of cases for the state of Alaska. For the last year tallied, District Courts received 98,518 filings. District one accounted for 8,990 of them, district two for 3,348 of them, district three had the most significant number of cases totaling 69,495, and district four saw 16,685. For all of Alaska, the largest number of cases were for minor offenses (55,482), followed by misdemeanors totaling 21,232, and then domestic abuse orders of 8,084, another 7,736 were for civil suits and the remaining 5,984 were for small claims.
District Court judges are appointed and must run every four years to be re-elected. Sometimes magistrates for the state are allowed to preside over District Court cases. This occurrence happens most often in areas where a district does not have a full-time judge to sit on the bench.