Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
The Courts of Limited Jurisdiction in Montana are Justice Courts, City Courts and Municipal Courts. There are 61 Justice Courts, 84 City Courts and 6 Municipal Courts. Although the jurisdiction of these courts differs slightly, collectively they address cases involving misdemeanor offenses, civil cases for amounts up to $12,000, small claims valued up to $7,000, landlord/tenant disputes, local ordinances, forcible entry and detainer, protection orders, certain issues involving juveniles, and other matters. The total caseload of these courts is nearly 10 times greater than that of the District Courts in Montana. Courts of Limited Jurisdiction are the courts in which most Montanans seeking justice will encounter the justice system.
Justice and Municipal Court Judges are elected, unless appointed to fill a vacated position. Judges appointed to fill a vacated position must run for the position at the end of the term to which they were appointed. City Court Judges may be elected or appointed. All Limited Jurisdiction Court Judges serve four-year terms. Justice Court and City Court Judges are not required to be attorneys; Municipal Court Judges must be attorneys. In 2011, there were 112 Limited Jurisdiction Court Judges. Numerous judges serve as both Justice of the Peace and City Judges.
All Limited Jurisdiction Court Judges must attend two Supreme Court-supervised training conferences each year and pass a Certification Examination each term. Failure to attend a training conference or pass the examination creates a vacancy in the Judge's office.