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In Utah, cases are heard at the local level through the municipal courts and justice courts. Both courts handle misdemeanors, ordinance violations, small claims and other violations in their jurisdictions. Justice court judges can be a county judge or a municipal judge; they do not have to be attorneys, but they are nevertheless required to undergo extensive training each year.
Utah’s juvenile courts handle issues relating to youths under age 18 who violate a law; are truant, runaways or ungovernable; or are abused, neglected or dependent. These issues include custody, parental rights and probation matters, health care for special-needs children and traffic offenses. There are 29 juvenile judges.
Seventy-one judges serve at the district court level in eight judicial districts. District court tries civil cases, criminal felonies and some misdemeanors. These courts also handle domestic cases such as divorces, adoption, child custody and probate, and they serve as appellate courts for administrative agencies.
Seven justices serve on the Utah Court of Appeals, and a presiding judge is elected from among the seven. The Court of Appeals handles appeals from juvenile and district courts with the exception of the district court’s small claims division. The appellate court can hear cases referred to it by the Utah Supreme Court, and it also handles appeals from state agencies.
The Utah Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to hear cases of constitutional law, state law and election issues. It also handles appeals in capital felony and first-degree convictions from the district court and, with the exception of domestic cases, is the appellate court for civil judgments. The Supreme Court oversees the proceedings of the Judicial Conduct Commission. The five justices serve renewable 10-year terms; they elect a chief justice, who serves for four years, and an associate chief justice, who serves for two years.
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