Oregon’s Justice Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Although they are not part of the unified court system, they are still “courts of the state” and an essential part of the justice program. They are entirely funded and established by county government and commissioners. Justice Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with Circuit Courts in their judicial district for criminal proceedings except for felonies. Justice Courts use the same rules that Circuit Courts do.
Judges are called Justices of the Peace and are elected into their seats to serve six-year terms. The types of cases they hear are minor misdemeanor cases, landlord/tenant disputes, fish and game offenses, boating violations, traffic violations, small claims issues, and county ordinance issues such as excessive noise and dogs running wild. Judges are authorized to perform weddings. There are thirty-two Justice Courts in 21 counties. Justices of the Peace must be U.S. citizens and live in Oregon for three years before taking their seat. They serve six-year terms.
Justice Court appeals are held in Circuit Courts and are processed “de novo (a form of appeal where the case is tried from the beginning, as if no prior trial had been held).” If the Justice Court is a court of record, then the appeals will go to the Court of Appeals instead.
Justice Courts can handle small claims cases of up to $7,500 except when they involve real property, libel, slander, malicious prosecution or false imprisonment.
The Secretary of State website has a section on Justice Courts and a registry of all Justice Courts and Justices of the Peace. Users may search the registry by county, city, judge’s name or court name. The main Oregon Judicial Branch website also has an area where patrons of the court can pay fines and fees online.