Wyoming Circuit Courts

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The circuit courts are limited jurisdiction courts. The geographic boundaries of the circuit courts are the same as the nine judicial districts for the district courts, and there are circuit courts in all 23 counties. The civil jurisdiction of the circuit courts covers small claim cases and civil cases in which the damages or recovery sought do not exceed $50,000. Circuit courts also hear family violence, stalking, and forcible entry and detainer cases. The criminal jurisdiction of the circuit courts covers all misdemeanor cases. A circuit court may also have the jurisdiction of a municipal court over ordinance violations if a municipality requests it and if the Supreme Court consents to such a consolidation of courts. Finally, the circuit courts may set bail for people accused of crimes and conduct preliminary hearings in felony cases.

Circuit court judges are appointed by the Governor in the same manner as Supreme Court justices and district judges. They serve four year terms. They must be attorneys admitted to the Wyoming State Bar and qualified electors of the state, and their judicial positions are full-time. A circuit court judge may submit names to the county commissioners for the appointment of magistrates to assist the judge. A full-time magistrate may be appointed in each county where a circuit court judge does not reside. There are full-time magistrates in Big Horn, Hot Springs, Johnson, Niobrara, Platte, and Weston counties. Some circuit court magistrates are considered to be part-time and are not required to be law trained, but if they are law trained, they may also conduct a private practice of law. A lay magistrate’s authority is limited by statute, but a law trained magistrate may perform all the duties of the circuit judge. Lay magistrates are primarily located in remote areas of our sparsely populated state.