The district courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction in the state. A district court exists in all 23 counties, and the counties are organized into nine judicial districts. The district judges preside over felony criminal cases, large civil cases, as well as juvenile and probate matters. They also hear appeals from lower court decisions. The jurisdiction of the district courts is unlimited except for civil cases under $50,000, small claims cases, forcible entry and detainer cases, and misdemeanors, which are heard in the circuit courts. As a result, the work of the district courts includes the most serious cases and controversies in the state.
There are 24 district judges in the state. District court is held in the county seat of each county, and judges regularly travel to all counties within their district to hear the cases that arise there. In addition, district judges travel to other districts when necessary to assist another judge with the workload of the district.
District judges are chosen like justices of the Supreme Court. They serve six-year terms. The governor appoints a judge from a list of three qualified persons submitted by the Judicial Nominating Commission, and the provisions for retention are the same as for Supreme Court justices. A district judge must be an attorney at least 28 years old who is a United States citizen and a resident of Wyoming for at least two years. Like Supreme Court justices, district judges must retire at the age of 70.
Each district judge hires a court reporter. The primary duties of the reporter are to keep a verbatim record of court proceedings and to prepare a written transcript of proceedings when requested. Transcripts are often necessary for appeals or some further legal action in a case. A court reporter, therefore, must always be present at trials and certain other important court proceedings. The court reporter may also serve as the district judge’s assistant in administrative and other office duties.
The clerk of district court is the record keeper of the court. Each county maintains a clerk of court’s office for the district court. The clerk maintains case files, which include all the written records of cases, such as complaints, answers, motions, orders, judgments, and written opinions. In addition, the clerk keeps a docket showing all cases filed and decided in the district court, receives and transmits all fees and monies deposited with the district court, and manages the calling and initial examination of jurors for the district court. The clerk is an elected official of the county.
Law clerks assist the district judges in legal research and help with other duties the judges may assign to them.