District Courts in North Carolina are the limited jurisdiction courts for the state. They hear criminal, civil, juvenile, and also magistrate cases. There are 41 judicial districts in North Carolina and District Courts in each county. Some counties have only one, and some have multiple. Some District Courts exist in other town and cities as dictated by the General Assembly. Each district is assigned a Chief Judge who has supervisory and administrative responsibilities.
Some District Court cases use a jury, but many use a judge to resolve matters. Some examples of cases heard in District Court are tort cases, real property cases of up to $25,000, contract disputes, small claims of up to $10,000, mental health cases, domestic relations and family cases like divorce, child custody, child support, and juvenile delinquency. These courts also resolve traffic violations, misdemeanors and preliminary hearings for serious felony crimes. District Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over juvenile matters and resolve juvenile delinquency cases along with dependency, child abuse, and neglect issues.
District Courts have a special Small Claims Court division overseen by Magistrates. They are authorized to resolve small claims of $10,000 or less, landlord eviction cases, motor vehicle mechanic’s liens, and personal property lawsuits. These courts can also issue arrest warrants, set bail, and accept pleas for petty misdemeanors and other infractions.
The North Carolina Judicial Branch website includes a lot of helpful features for patrons of the legal system. They offer court calendars, a courthouse locator, judicial district maps, links to over 900 forms, e-filing options for many courts and detailed information on specific types of cases such as adoption, divorce, small claims, civil lawsuits, criminal issues, traffic violations and other special areas of interest.
For the last year tallied, District Courts saw 188,088 filings for civil claims, 206,328 cases for small claims, 505,951 for minor infractions and traffic violations and 1,387,735 criminal cases.