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Missouri Courts       

"Click here" for a link to the Missouri State Courts web site.

Know Your Courts

The Missouri Judiciary consists of three levels of courts: The trial courts (also known as the circuit courts), an intermediate appellate court (the Missouri Court of Appeals) that is divided into three regional districts, and the Supreme Court of Missouri.

The circuit courts are the primary trial courts in Missouri, and they have general jurisdiction (authority) over almost all civil and criminal matters. Every Missouri county has a court, and these courts are organized into 45 regional circuits throughout the state. Each circuit court consists of many divisions, such as circuit, associate circuit, small claims, municipal, criminal, family, probate and juvenile. The type of case determines the division to which a particular case is assigned. The link above can provide you with more detailed information about the courts in your area and the cases handled by each division.

The Missouri Court of Appeals is divided into three regional districts: Eastern, Southern and Western. Any party who loses at the circuit court may file an appeal, which then is heard in most cases by a three-judge panel at the appropriate regional district of the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals receives all cases appealed from the circuit courts of the counties within the respective regions, except for certain specific types of cases sent directly to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of Missouri is the state's highest court. It also has supervisory authority over all Missouri courts and adopts rules for practice and procedure in Missouri courts. The state constitution requires that the Supreme Court review certain categories of cases as a matter of right.  In most other cases, however, the Supreme Court will hear a case only if it accepts transfer of the case following a decision by the Court of Appeals. Examples of cases the Supreme Court may transfer include cases that deal with a legal matter of general interest or importance to the state, or if there is a conflict of law between two appellate districts or two appellate opinions. The Court’s seven judges generally sit together ("en banc") to decide all cases, motions and other matters that come before it.

Missouri’s court system also features a variety of specialized courts that are divisions of the circuit courts. These specialized court divisions hear cases involving juveniles, families, drug offenders, and, in "probate" divisions, the estates of people who have died or are disabled. These specialized court divisions are created either by legislative act or court rule to deal with particular areas of concern to Missouri’s citizens. Click the hotlink in this paragraph to learn more about specialized courts and to determine if any such courts are in your area.

 
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