Idaho Court System

The Idaho State Court is made up of three levels:  The Trial Courts, called the “District Courts”, (which include the Magistrate Division); The Court of Appeals, and the highest court in the State – the Supreme Court.

Idaho Supreme Court

Idaho has a very efficient court system, administered by the Idaho Supreme Court.   The court establishes statewide rules and policies for the operation of the entire court system.  Over half a million criminal and civil cases are filed in Idaho’s state court system each year!  The Chief Justice and four Associate Justices on the Supreme Court are the final voice in the appeals from the District Court.

Idaho Court of Appeals

The Idaho Court of Appeals consists of a Chief Judge and three Associate Judges.  The court was founded in 1981 to relieve the caseload of appeals from the District Court.  The Court of Appeals hears cases assigned to it by the Idaho Supreme Court.

District Courts

In the District Courts, judges hear serious criminal cases, called felonies, which are punishable by a fine or imprisonment in the penitentiary, or by the death penalty, as well as civil disputes when the amount of money involved is over a specified amount.  District Judges also hear appeals from the Magistrate Division. There are seven judicial districts within the state of Idaho and 42 District Judges.  As few as four, and as many as nine, District Judges have been appointed to each judicial district, depending on the population of the district.

Magistrate Division

Magistrate Judges hear criminal cases punishable by a fine or imprisonment in the county jail, called “misdemeanors”, and civil cases where the amount of money involved is less than a specified amount.   Magistrate judges also handle juvenile cases, family law cases, and cases about wills and estates, called “probate” cases.  And, magistrate judges handle all original small claims disputes.  These cases are civil disputes where a relatively small amount of money is in question.  They are informal, without the use of attorneys, which allows people an inexpensive means to settle minor claims.  Most often, citizens come in contact with a magistrate judge because of traffic citations.  Each county has at least one magistrate judge, and larger counties have more judges, to try to hear all the cases in a timely manner.  There are 87 Magistrate Judges.

The Federal Court System

The Federal Court System, made up of district courts, a court of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court also plays a role in the judicial process in Idaho.  Cases related to the United States constitution or federal issues, such as civil rights actions, immigration matters, federal tax cases, and disputes between citizens of different states about money in the amount of $75,000 or more, are resolved in the federal court system.  All other cases are handled in the state courts.