Each county has justice courts that are presided over by a justice of the peace, who is elected for a four year term. These include civil lawsuits where the amount in dispute is $10,000 or less, landlord and tenant controversies, small claims cases and the full range of civil and criminal traffic offenses, including DUIs. Justices of the peace also resolve other types of misdemeanor allegations (e.g. shoplifting, writing bad checks, violating restraining orders) and, like other trial judges, also handle requests for orders of protection and injunctions against harassment.
The number of justice courts in a county depends on its population. For example, there are 26 justice courts in Maricopa County.
Justice courts hear lawsuits when the amount in dispute is $10,000 or less, including:
- Eviction Actions and Landlord & Tenant Disputes
- Collection Cases
- Consumer Complaints Against Businesses
- Negligence Actions, (e.g. Motor Vehicle Accidents)
- Breach of Contract Cases
Justice courts also hear small claims cases. In those cases, the amount in dispute is $3,500 or less. Small claims cases are much more informal than a regular courtroom proceeding and usually do not involve attorneys. There is no appeal from a small claims decision.
Some justices of the peace conduct preliminary hearings on felonies. All justice courts hear every type of crime that is a misdemeanor under state law, including:
- Assault and Battery
- DUI (Including Extreme DUI)
- Bad Checks
- Violations of Orders of Protection or Injunctions Against Harassment
- Underage Drinking
Justices of the peace also hear every type of civil and criminal traffic violation.
Most justice of the peace precincts have an elected constable. The constable’s duties are to execute, serve and return all processes and legal documents as directed by the court. Some statutes relating to sheriffs also govern the powers, duties and liabilities of constables.
The justice of the peace usually has one or more court clerks to provide clerical assistance and maintain court records. Additionally, justice courts in some busy urban precincts have a court administrator.
Justice of the Peace Qualifications
The requirements to be a justice of the peace are that you be a registered voter in Arizona, reside in the justice court precinct and understand the English language. While some justices of the peace are attorneys, there is no requirement that a justice court judge be an attorney.