What is County Court?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A county court is a court which handles legal matters on a county level, in nations where counties are used as administrative divisions. The jurisdiction of a county court varies widely, and may be outlined in a variety of statutes. Citizens who have experiences in court often encounter court at the county level, and county courts are sometimes referred to as the “people's courts” because citizens of a county tend to take up legal matters in county court first. More advanced court divisions can include federal or national courts as well as state courts.

Cases involving minor crimes and civil disputes are typically handled in county court.
Cases involving minor crimes and civil disputes are typically handled in county court.

County courts can handle a variety of civil and criminal matters. In some regions, they primarily focus on minor issues, with higher courts handling issues such as felonies and major civil matters. Some examples of cases handled by county courts include traffic violations, family law, probate, juvenile matters if there is no separate juvenile court system, and violations of city or village ordinances.

Individuals in a court room are required to follow courtroom etiquette, including dressing conservatively.
Individuals in a court room are required to follow courtroom etiquette, including dressing conservatively.

Sessions in a county court are overseen by a judge who may be elected or appointed, depending on the law. Court judges usually need to be citizens of the counties in which they work, and they may need to be qualified lawyers as well. When juries are required for a trial, a pool of jurors is taken from citizens of the surrounding county. Some county courts employ several different judges at multiple branches for the convenience of citizens who may not be able to travel to a court located in the county seat.

Also known as superior or district courts, county courts see a great deal of cases in any given day. At all levels of the court system, visitors to the court are expected to adhere to certain standards of dress and behavior, whether they are audience members watching a trial, or witnesses who have been summoned to testify. Court etiquette includes traditions such as rising when the judge enters the room, and wearing conservative clothing which is not offensive or distracting. Violations of court etiquette can result in fines or jail time, depending on the mood of the judge and the nature of the offense.

The arrangement of the legal system varies greatly from nation to nation, so procedures for matters like appealing judgments made in a county court can be very different depending on where the judgment is made. In areas like the United States, the court system can vary radically from state to state, and from county to county. While state law may sketch out the rules for the court system, individual counties can handle legal matters slightly differently, as long as their court systems adhere with the spirit of the Constitution and traditional jurisprudence.

Violations of court etiquette can sometimes lead to jail time.
Violations of court etiquette can sometimes lead to jail time.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Terrificli

@Logicfest -- I think that ability to appeal is abused a lot by attorneys. If it is clear that a judge is going to find a criminal defendant is guilty, then that defendant and his attorney both know they can just appeal the case regardless of what happens and get a fresh trial in front of a jury.

Since that is true, some attorneys will roll the dice on a trial in district court then appeal if they lose. There is just something wrong about that.

Logicfest

In these parts, we used to call those municipal courts but now refer to them as district courts and the state has clarified their powers. Those courts generally handle misdemeanor criminal cases, small claims and some civil cases.

There are no jury trials in those courts and there is a way to appeal to the higher, circuit court where the district court's decision will essentially be tossed out the window and the case is tried again.

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