Montana has a number of different courts, which can seem confusing. But generally, the state's court structure contains three tiers: limited jurisdiction courts, general jurisdiction courts, and appellate courts.
The lowest tier, the limited jurisdiction courts, can be further divided into justice courts, city courts, and municipal courts. They differ slightly, but generally, these courts handle cases involving misdemeanor offenses, civil cases of up to $12,000, small claims of up to $7,000, local ordinance disputes, protective orders, and other matters.
Up one step to the second tier are Montana's general jurisdiction courts. The busiest of these are Montana's 56 district courts, which hear larger and more complex cases than the limited jurisdiction courts, including extensive civil cases, criminal felony cases, and probate cases. The district courts also hear any cases that are appealed from the limited jurisdiction courts. In addition, there are two other general jurisdiction courts: the Water Court, which handles water rights issues, and the Workers' Compensation Court, which handles workers' compensation disputes.
The highest tier is the Montana Supreme Court. This court hears appeals of decisions made in the general jurisdiction courts.
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