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Overview of the Washington Court System

Washington residents must deal with a wide variety of legal issues daily. For those who need to navigate the legal system, it's important to understand that the state's courts are divided into four different tiers.

The bottom tier contains the municipal and district courts. Municipal courts are located in towns across the state, and each county contains a district court (counties with larger populations contain multiple district court divisions). These courts handle small claims, civil actions less than $75,000, traffic infractions, misdemeanor traffic cases, and domestic violence restraining order cases.

The next tier is the superior courts, which handle serious criminal cases, felony traffic matters, juvenile cases, and civil matters. There are 30 superior court districts across the state, but each county has its own Superior Court location. These courts can also hear appeals from the municipal and district courts.

The next tier are the three Courts of Appeals, located in Tacoma, Seattle, and Spokane. These appellate courts handle the majority of appeals from the lower courts.

The top tier, the Washington Supreme Court, has ultimate jurisdiction over all cases in the state and decides whether to accept or deny appeals of lower-court rulings. It has original jurisdiction — meaning cases head straight to the court — on death penalty appeals and petitions involving state officers. It can also claim jurisdiction over cases where a lower court has ruled a law unconstitutional.

Find a Lawyer in Washington

Having a lawyer in your corner when you are dealing with a legal matter is the right decision to protect your rights and options. But the choice you make in the lawyer you hire matters. LawInfo has a directory of skilled, Lead Counsel Rated Washington attorneys who you can search for by location and by practice area, making it easy to find the right lawyer for you.