Montana’s District Courts are the general jurisdiction trial courts for the state, and they are the highest trial courts. Each District Court covers one of the 22 judicial districts with multiple counties in each. District Courts handle both criminal and civil cases. The types of cases resolved by District Courts include tort cases, real property cases, misdemeanors, felonies, small claims, and juvenile cases. These courts also have exclusive jurisdiction over domestic relations cases, mental health issues, matters of probate, civil appeals, and miscellaneous civil actions. District Courts also hear cases where the State of Montana is sued. Trials may be conducted with or without a jury.
Montana has 56 District Court Judges, and they are elected in non-partisan elections for a six-year term by voters in their region.
The District Courts of Montana act as an appeal court for the lower courts and administrative agencies. Patrons of the District Courts must abide by the following rules: Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Uniform District Court Rules.
Montana’s Judicial Branch website is organized well and offers patrons of District Court a lot of information. They have guides, brochures, books, and other law library resources. They also detail the laws of District Courts, list the fees involved, offer newsletters and updates and include statistics and Court Clerk’s contact information if anyone has questions. Additionally, Montana has a court records search area so that individuals can locate their case and e-file or respond to motions.
For the last year tallied, District Courts saw a total of 49,264 new filings. Of those, 14,640 were for civil actions, 12,806 were criminal offenses, 12,245 were family issues, 4,735 were for probate and estate matters, 2,561 were about family and child issues, 1,208 were for involuntary commitment of mentally ill persons and 1,069 were juvenile cases.