The Montana state Court System is comprised of the Montana Supreme Court, state District Courts, and local Justice Courts, City Courts and Municipal Courts. The state also has specialized courts to deal with specific issues such as Drug Court, Youth Court, Water Court, and Workers’ Compensation Court.
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state and the court that handles all appeals. Unlike other states, the Treasure State does not have a designated court of appeals that acts as an intermediate court of appeals. Therefore, all cases that require review go through the Supreme Court. This court was established in 1864. There are seven Supreme justices in this state. One of them acts as Chief Justice who has additional administrative, and supervisory responsibilities, and the others are Associate Justices. To be eligible to sit on the Supreme Court, a person must be licensed to practice law. Each justice is elected into an eight-year term. District Court appeals go to the this court for further review if necessary.
Water Court and Workers’ Compensation Court are on the same level as District Courts, but City, Justice, and Municipal Courts are the lowest courts in the state with limited jurisdiction.
Most records in the state will be openly available to the general public. However, some criminal history information like protection orders, warrants, some vital records like birth certificates and death records, federal offenses (including tribal ones), intelligence reports, and out-of-state records are protected by state law. Additionally, whether or not a person is deceased or has committed sex offenses will not be shown in the court documents. United States federal law also prohibits the inclusion of personal and sensitive information like identifiers such as social security numbers, tax IDs, bank account information, children’s names, home addresses, and other details will be redacted from the files before they are made public.
Montana’s Judicial Branch website (MT.gov) is organized well for the end-user and self-represented litigants. On the main menu, they offer a self-help section with resources, forms, brochures, FAQs, office hours, phone number, PO Box, a list of attorneys and all the court rules and procures making it easy for an individual to file their own case documents and evidence. They have a dedicated area on the website just for forms for all types of cases. It is organized by areas of interest such as adoptions, protective orders, estate planning, marriage licenses, property records, divorce, child support issues, custody, guardianships, name changes, and other relevant topics. This state also offers e-filing and has video tutorials and detailed instructions on how that system works. Patrons of the court can also contact the clerk of court with any questions or to get certified copies of court documents.
Want to search for and access MT Montana public records on demand? Use the Infotracer tool to access hundreds of court cases all over the state, including Yellowstone County, Montana County, Missoula County, and Gallatin County. Per the Freedom of Information Act and MT Public Records Act Montana Code 2-6-101 et seq., Infotracer’s extensive database includes criminal records, dockets, civil cases, family court issues such as divorce, bankruptcies, and more!
An individual may conduct a public records search without having any official reason or requesting permission. All MT records are available online, except for those that are court-ordered sealed or kept confidential by law.
By using Infotracer, you gain free instant access to public records from all types of courts. The best way to lookup cases online is by using a state records search by name. Included are records from Montana district courts, justice courts, city courts, municipal courts, drug court, workers’ compensation court, and even water court!
In 2014, the Montana courts received 304,757 filings. In 2016, the number of filings decreased by 1.1% and counted 301,534 filings.
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Domestic relations caseload of Montana at year end of 2016 has increased by 5.7% compared to the last 3 years.
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The state's District Courts are the general jurisdiction courts for the state. There are 56 of these courts that are spread over 22 judicial districts. These courts are served by 46 judges. These courts have domain over felonies, probate cases, civil lawsuits regarding equity, and special action proceedings. These courts handle some appeals from the lower, limited jurisdiction courts in their own districts. On average District judges see a total of 49,264 filings per year and close about 46,710 of them, giving them a 95% closing rate. The majority of filings are civil, followed closely by criminal and then family issues.
Justice Courts are limited jurisdiction courts for the state. The state has 61 of them. These types of courts handle misdemeanors, civil lawsuits up to $12,000, small claims up to $7,000, local ordinance violations, traffic violations, landlord/tenant disputes, protection orders, juvenile cases, and other cases. Each court is different and has varying levels of authority over these matters. Justice Courts see about five times as many cases as District Courts. Judges in Justice Court are elected, and they do not have to be attorneys. However, they have to attend two training sessions provided by the Supreme Court every year and pass an exam.
City Courts are also limited jurisdiction courts that are positioned in cities around the state. There are 84 in the state. The jurisdiction for each of the limited jurisdiction courts varies, they generally handle tort cases, and real property cases up to $7,000. They also handle preliminary hearings, misdemeanors, traffic violations, and have exclusive jurisdiction over local ordinance violations. These courts see a lot of cases per year. These judges are most often elected unless there is a vacant position and then they are appointed but must run for re-election with the next vote.
Municipal Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with the state District Courts. They do not take on cases that deal with city ordinance violations. They do resolve civil disputes of up to $7,000, felony cases, and they can issue search warrants. Municipal Court judges have the same authority as Justice Court judges, and they can hold preliminary hearings for felonies committed within the city limits. Judges must be lawyers before being elected into their positions. If there is a vacant slot, they may be appointed by the local government for a temporary seat until re-election.
The state has split out several different types of courts to focus on single issues. These courts are named Youth Court, Drug Court, Water Court, and Workers’ Compensation Court. Some have only one location, and others are spread out across multiple locations. Most of these specialty courts are under the direct supervision of the District Courts. These courts handle things like juvenile delinquency, child abuse and neglect, child custody, guardianship, drug and alcohol-related crimes, rehabilitation, treatment programs, workers’ compensation benefits and violations, job-related disputes, and domain over water rights and territory.