Arizona Court Records

Links to Calendars and Opinions

The Arizona Court System was created in 1910 by Article VI of the Arizona Constitution, nearly 2 years before Arizona became a state.   Over the subsequent years, many changes to Arizona's Court System have taken place, from establishing superior, juvenile, justice of the peace and municipal courts(1912/1913), to establishing that the supreme court would have administrative powers over all the other courts (Modern Courts Amendment, 1960), to creating a system in include the public in judicial performance review (Prop 109, 1992)

Today there are 3 levels in the Arizona Court System:

Limited Jurisdiction - Municipal/ City Courts and Justice of the Peace Courts hear a limited variety of cases, permanent records of proceedings are not required although some keep them.

General Jurisdiction - The superior court is a statewide trial court hearing the widest variety of case types, permanent records of proceedings are kept.

 Appellate Jurisdiction - To review cases tried in other courts.  The lower courts of appeals are required to hear all cases not including death penalty and county or city disputes, which are instead heard by the supreme court.  Unlike the lower courts of appeals, the supreme court is not required to hear any appeal, instead it has the power to choose the cases it hears based on their evaluations of petitions to review.

The highest level of state court in Arizona is the Supreme Court. It hears certain appeals, deals with internal state matters such as intercounty disputes,  and also administers the state's judicial system. It has what is called discretionary jurisdiction and is often referred to as 'the court of last resort.'  There are 5 justices seated on the bench of the Arizona Supreme Court, each serving a regular term of 6 years.  The Chief Justice is chosen by the other 4 and in addition to the regular case load, also has the duty of overseeing the administrative operations of all the courts in the state.

Limited Jurisdiction Courts

Arizona's courts of limited jurisdiction hear cases related to misdemeanor crimes and petty offenses committed within their city or town.  These include things like DUI and other traffic offenses where no one was seriously injured, violations of city or town ordinances, issue restraining orders, search and arrest warrants, simple assault and battery, vandalism, etc.  The cases heard here are for crimes that do not cause serious personal injury or damages over $2500.  Municipal courts do not hear civil cases between two citizens, but the Justice courts may and are limited to damages no more than $10,000.

Justice courts share jurisdiction with the superior courts in cases related to landlord/tenant disputes where damages range from $5,000 to $10,000 and can hear cases related to real property.  Disputes involving more than $10,000 must be filed with the superior court.

General Jurisdiction Courts

Each county has at least one Superior court judge.  These judges hear a wide variety of cases ranging from civil cases to probate, to serious criminal cases and everything else that would be outside the purview of the other courts.   This includes Juvenile Court, Tax Court and general arbitration.  Furthermore, the Superior court acts as an appellate court for cases originally heard in the municipal or justice court setting.

Appellate Courts

There are two appellate courts in Arizona, the intermediate court of appeals and the Supreme Court. The court of appeals was created in 1965 as the first level above the superior court and is comprised of 2 divisions, Div.1 in Phoenix and Div.2 in Tucson.  The court of appeals hears and decides cases using a 3 judge panel and has jurisdiction over all matters that are properly appealed from superior court.  Furthermore, the court of appeals must review all decisions that are properly appealed to it.  The appeals process is generally the same regardless whether the decision being reviewed is a civil or criminal case.

The Arizona Supreme court consists of a 5 judge panel (called justices), each serving a term of 6 years.  The Supreme Court has jurisdictional discretion, which means it can choose which cases to review and which ones to reject regardless of whether the appeal was properly sought, unless the appealed decision is one resulting in the death penalty.  In addition to appeals, the Arizona Supreme court also has administrative control over the rest of the courts, as well as it oversees the regulation of activities pertaining to the State Bar, new attorneys, misconduct of attorneys and serves as the final decision making body in regards to disciplinary recommendations that are filed against Arizona judges as well as having a role in the Arizona state impeachment process.

Records and other inquiries: Arizona Supreme Court Public Information Office
1501 W. Washington, Ste. 411, Phoenix, AZ 85007-3231

Resources