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 sexual assault protection order cases. Further, they hear 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 they may 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, Johnson, Niobrara and Platte 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. Only law trained full–time magistrates may perform the duties of the circuit court judges. Lay magistrates are primarily located in remote areas of our sparsely populated state.
Circuit court judges may perform judicial duties for the district courts at the request of district court judges, and many do assist regularly on routine district court matters throughout the State. Circuit court judges handle thousands of traffic, criminal, small claims and civil cases every year. They might hear traffic cases in the morning and felony preliminary hearings in the afternoon.
Please contact individual circuit courts for court tours or to request a judge to speak to groups.