A. Structure of the court system

Overview

Mississippi

The Mississippi Supreme Court – the state court of last resort. Decisions of the Chancery, Circuit and County Courts and of the Court of Appeals may be appealed to the Supreme Court. Appeals which go directly to the Supreme Court include annexations, bond issues, constitutionality challenges, death penalty cases, disciplinary matters involving attorneys and judges, election contests, certified questions from federal court, utility rates, cases of first impression and issues of broad public interest.

The Court of Appeals – hears cases assigned by the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals hears and decides appeals on issues in which the law is already settled, but the facts are in dispute. The Supreme Court may review Court of Appeals decisions. Otherwise, the Court of Appeals decision stands.

Circuit Courts – hear felony criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits. Circuit Courts hear appeals from County, Justice and Municipal courts and from administrative boards and commissions such as the Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

Chancery Courts – handle disputes in matters involving equity; domestic matters including adoptions, custody disputes and divorces; guardianships; sanity hearings; wills; and challenges to constitutionality of state laws. Land records are filed in Chancery Court. Chancery Courts have jurisdiction over juvenile matters in counties that have no County Court.

County Courts – have exclusive jurisdiction over eminent domain proceedings and juvenile matters, among other things. In counties that have a County Court, a County Court judge also serves as the Youth Court judge. County Courts share jurisdiction with Circuit and Chancery Courts in some civil matters. The jurisdictional limit of County Courts is up to $200,000. County Courts may handle non-capital felony cases transferred from Circuit Court. County Court judges may issue search warrants, set bond and preside over preliminary hearings. County Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with Justice Courts in all matters, civil and criminal.

Justice Courts – handle small claims civil cases involving amounts of $3,500 or less, misdemeanor criminal cases and any traffic offense that occurs outside a municipality. Judges may conduct bond hearings and preliminary hearings in felony criminal cases and may issue search warrants.

Drug Courts – handle crimes committed by those addicted to drugs or alcohol. These special courts seek to rehabilitate drug-using offenders through drug treatment and intense supervision with drug testing and frequent court appearances.

Municipal courts – handle misdemeanor crimes, municipal ordinances and city traffic violations. Judges may conduct initial appearances in which defendants are advised of the charges being filed, as well as bond hearings and preliminary hearings.

Youth courts – handle cases involving offenses committed by juveniles (those younger than 18) as well cases involving the abuse and neglect of juveniles. In the 20 counties that have a County Court, those judges also serve as Youth Court judges. In counties without a County Court, the Chancery Judge may hear Youth Court matters, or the Chancery Judge may appoint a lawyer to act as Youth Court Referee.