Montana’s Municipal Courts are another type of limited jurisdiction court for the state. They are most similar to Justice Courts. They do not handle any cases that deal with city ordinances, those fall to the City Courts. They do handle both civil and criminal cases. Municipal Courts correspond with District Courts in terms of jurisdiction.
The types of cases that Municipal Courts handle are civil suits up to $7,000, felony preliminary hearings and misdemeanors. They can also take on tort cases, real property, along with traffic violations and parking tickets. They also handle fish and game violations along with ordinance issues. They can resolve some juvenile cases such as possession of alcohol or tobacco and traffic offenses. Municipal Courts see about ten times as many cases as District Courts. A jury or a judge can handle trials in Municipal Court. Appeals from this court go to District Court or directly to the Supreme Court.
Municipal Court judges are required to be lawyers. They are elected unless a seat is vacant and then they are appointed to it until re-election. These judges serve four-year terms. Municipal Courts operate at the same level as City and Justice Courts although their jurisdiction may vary slightly. All limited jurisdiction judges are required to attend two trainings per year at the Supreme Court and take an examination every term. Failure to comply with these terms will cost them their seat.
The Montana Judicial Branch website offers a plethora of services, programs, and resources for patrons using the Municipal Court system. They have a portal where individuals can log in and pay traffic tickets and other fines online, they offer e-filing for cases, and all the downloadable forms someone needs to file documentation.
For the last year tallied, all limited jurisdiction courts including Municipal Courts saw 29,527 civil filings and 213,818 criminal filings.