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Virginia Circuit Courts

Virginia’s Circuit Courts are the highest trial court in the state and the general jurisdiction courts. These courts have the most power and can handle both civil and criminal cases. The state of Virginia is split into 31 judicial circuits with 120 Circuit Courts operating within them. The Supreme Court oversees all Circuit Courts. Each circuit has at least two judges and in some cases as many as fifteen. The General Assembly votes in new judges to Circuit Court and they serve eight-year terms. In the event of a vacancy, the Governor can appoint someone to sit in until the next vote. Each Circuit also has a Chief Judge who is elected by a vote of all the judges. To be elected into office, a judge must practice law for five years prior and live in the circuit they will work in. The types of cases seen in Circuit Courts are civil claims of $25,000 or more. With civil actions between $4,500 - $25,000, they have concurrent jurisdiction with District Courts. They also resolve domestic cases such as divorce, annulment, child custody, probate cases for wills, estates and real property issues, mental health cases, criminal offenses including felonies and misdemeanors, civil appeals from District Courts and administrative agencies. These courts can also handle juvenile delinquency cases where the child is 14 or older. These courts do use jury trials in many cases. The Clerk of the Court is a judicial officer who serves an eight-year term and is elected into office. The Clerk is responsible for many administrative and supportive tasks to help Circuit Courts, judges, and other court staff. They have the authority to probate wills, appoint guardians, and grant administration of estates. They are also the managers of all court records, deeds, and marriage licenses.

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