Montana’s Justice Courts are one type of limited jurisdiction court in the state. There are 61 Justice Courts in Montana. These courts can handle both criminal and civil cases. The types of cases heard in Justice Court are tort cases, real property cases of up to $7,000, contract disputes, small claims of up to $3,000, preliminary hearings for more serious felonies, misdemeanors, traffic violations, and parking ticket issues. These courts also handle landlord-tenant issues, local ordinance violations, forcible entry and detainer protection orders, some juvenile cases, and other legal matters.
Judges that oversee Justice Courts do not have to be lawyers, and they are elected except when there is a vacancy, and then they are appointed until re-election. These judges serve four-year terms. Justice Courts see about five times as many cases as District Courts. Justice Court judges must attend two Supreme Court sponsored training events per year. They also must pass a Certification Examination each term. If they fail to comply with either of these terms, they will be removed from their seat. Justice judges resolve cases for surrounding towns. Justice Courts do not keep court transcripts of the proceedings. There are five judges who work in Justice Courts in Montana.
The Montana Judicial Branch website has a case search area where users can find their case and look up other information. Additionally, they offer e-filing throughout the court system and include tutorials, guides, and detailed instructions on how to file and what forms need to be filled out. Many litigants in lower courts are self-represented, and therefore, the judicial branch website offers many helpful resources for those individuals.
For the last year tallied, all limited jurisdiction courts including Justice Courts saw 29,527 civil filings and 213,818 criminal filings.