Alaska’s Superior Courts are a critical piece of the judicial system for the state. They have general jurisdiction over trial cases. Both criminal and civil matters are resolved within the Alaskan Superior Courts. The state has 42 Superior Courts spread across four districts. The state employs 42 judges that can hear all trial cases for all of Alaska with the only exception being exclusive District Court cases. Alaska uses a “unified” court system so that all courts have the same access to resources, documents, and information making it easier for patrons and staff.
Every year the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court chooses one judge from each of the four districts to be the “presiding judge” over the whole district. This position is good for one year and can be renewed. The responsibilities of this role as court administrator are to assign cases, supervise court personnel and handle other court business as well as appoint new magistrates.
Alaska’s Superior Courts hear appeals from the District Courts and act as a mediator for administrative agency decisions. The types of cases that Superior Courts resolve are divorce, custody, child abuse, and neglect, property matters of deceased people or mentally incompetent adults. These courts also handle matters related to the involuntary commitment of people to mental institutions. Cases that are appealed from here end up in the Court of Appeals or go directly to the Supreme Court.
On average, the Superior Courts witness around 24,048 filings per year. District one averages about 2,433, district two averages, 1,265, district three averages 16,406 and district four averages about 3,944. The state as a whole averages a 98% clearance rate for cases brought to the Superior Courts. The highest number of cases are for felonies (7,186), the second highest number (6,801) is for probate matters, then domestic relations (4,365), followed by civil cases that equal about 2,452.