Many incorporated cities or towns have a municipal court, also known as a city court or magistrate court. Municipal courts have criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanor crimes and petty offenses committed in their city or town. They share jurisdiction with justice courts over violations of state law committed within their city or town limits.
Municipal court judges (magistrates) hear misdemeanor criminal traffic cases such as driving under the influence of alcohol, hit-and-run and reckless driving where no serious injuries occur. They hear civil traffic cases, violations of city ordinances and codes, and issue orders of protection and injunctions prohibiting harassment. They can also issue search warrants. They DO NOT hear civil lawsuits between citizens.
City charters or ordinances establish the qualifications of these judges. Some cities do not require municipal court judges to be attorneys. City or town councils appoint their judges, except in Yuma, where municipal court judges are elected. Judges serve terms set by the city or town council; their terms must be at least two years.
Judges have court clerks who provide clerical assistance and schedule cases. In larger cities, the judges may also have court administrators.
Municipal Court Governance Roles and Responsibilities
Open, Close, Consolidate, Co-Locate, and Bifurcate Courts