The structure of the judicial network of Wyoming was laid down by Article V of the Constitution and as such it is similar to many other states that have the Supreme Court at the apex position while lower courts with general and limited jurisdiction occupy the lower levels of the judicial hierarchy. The court structure of the Wyoming comprises of the Supreme Court, the District Courts, Circuit Courts and Municipal Courts.
Apart from this, a parallel federal judicial network also operates in the state. This includes the United States District Court for Wyoming and the Court of Appeals for the Tenth District. A difference in the judicial network of Wyoming and that of some other states is that Wyoming does not have an intermediate appellate court.
The highest judicial authority in the state: The Supreme Court of Wyoming
At the top of the judicial ladder is the Court of Last Resort which has mandatory jurisdiction in all appellate cases. Given the small size of the state, it was observed that there was no real need to include an intermediate appellate court in the judicial setup. Hence, all appeals from the District Courts are handled by the Supreme Court of Wyoming. Matters are heard en banc by a panel of 5 justices.
Located at Cheyenne, the Supreme Court is deemed the final arbiter in all criminal and civil matters, except for cases that involve an argument over a federal law. The decisions of the Supreme Court are binding on all lower tribunals. Apart from deciding on appeals that are brought up from the District Courts, the apex judicial body also oversees the administrative functioning of the Wyoming State Bar, regulates the practice of law and admits attorneys.
The General Jurisdiction Tribunals of Wyoming: The District Courts
The state of Wyoming has a district court in each of its 23 counties although the state is divided into 9 judicial districts. These courts have general jurisdiction which means they can hear criminal as well as civil cases. In terms of the latter, the judges of District Tribunals have the authority to rule in matters pertaining to felonies, Class A and B misdemeanors. As far as civil matters go, the tribunal hears cases where the dispute is over an amount that exceeds $50,000. District Tribunals also handle juvenile and probate cases along with appeals from the Circuit Tribunals.
The District Courts of Wyoming are served by 23 judges who are appointed to six year terms. These appointments are made by the Governor and the District Court is held in the county seat of each county. Judges will typically travel to all counties within a judicial district and even outside to hear cases.
The Limited Jurisdiction Tribunals of Wyoming
Circuit Courts: In terms of geographical jurisdiction, these tribunals have the same geographic area of authority as the District Courts. So, there are 23 Circuit Tribunals all across the state, one in each county of Wyoming. However, these courts have limited jurisdiction. Typically, Circuit Courts will have jurisdiction in all misdemeanor cases and can conduct the preliminary hearing for felonies.
So, when in need of an arrest warrant in WY, this is the tribunal that the local police will approach. Hence, it is also possible to conduct warrant searches by getting in touch with the Circuit Court in your area. As far as civil litigations are concerned, these tribunals will only hear cases where the disputed amount is less than $50,000. These courts also tackle matters pertaining to domestic violence, forcible entry, stalking and detainer entry. Finally, the circuit courts are allowed to handle appeals from the tribunals at the municipal level.
Municipal Courts: On the last step of the judicial pyramid, these courts only have the authority to preside in matters that pertain to the violation of traffic and municipal ordinances. These courts can issue active warrants against people accused of such offenses but these arrest warrants are only valid within the county that they were issued in.