Kitsap County District Court
Courts of limited jurisdiction include district and municipal courts. District courts are county courts and serve defined territories, both incorporated and unincorporated, within the counties. Municipal courts are those created by cities and towns.
More than two million cases are filed annually in district and municipal courts. Excluding parking infractions, seven out of every eight cases filed in all state courts are filed at this level. This is due primarily to the broad jurisdiction these courts have over traffic violations and misdemeanors.
District courts have jurisdiction over both criminal and civil cases. Criminal jurisdiction includes misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors cases that involve traffic or non-traffic offenses. Examples include – Driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs (DUI), reckless driving, driving with a suspended driver's license and assault in the fourth degree. Preliminary hearings for felony cases are also within the jurisdiction of the district courts. The maximum penalty for gross misdemeanors is 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. The maximum penalty for misdemeanors is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. A defendant is entitled to a jury trial for criminal offenses. Juries in courts of limited jurisdiction are composed of six people as opposed to superior court juries, which have 12 people.
Jurisdiction over civil cases includes infractions (traffic and non-traffic "tickets"), protection orders (such as antiharassment protection orders, domestic violence no contact orders, and stalking protection orders), name change petitions, vehicle impounds, small claims cases and matters involving animals and a local animal control authority
Small claims cases are limited to money claims of up to $5,000, or up to $10,000 when brought by a person. These are filed and heard in the Small Claims Department of the district court. Generally, each party is self-represented – attorneys are not permitted except with the permission of the judge. Witnesses may not be subpoenaed but may be allowed to voluntarily testify for a party. Examples of small claims cases include – neighborhood disputes, consumer problems, landlord/tenant matters, work performed but not paid, work paid for but not performed, and small collections. The district court clerk can provide specific information about filing a claim.
District courts also have jurisdiction over civil lawsuits for damages for injury to individuals or personal property and contract disputes in amounts of up to $100,000. These civil proceedings involve lawsuits where a party is seeking a money judgment. No jail sentence may be imposed. There is a right to a jury trial for these civil lawsuits, but not for any of the other civil matters district courts have jurisdiction to handle.
Domestic Violence and Antiharassment Orders
District and municipal courts are confronted daily with domestic violence issues. Besides adjudicating criminal domestic violence and antiharassment cases, courts of limited jurisdiction also enter protection orders. These include antiharassment protection orders, domestic violence no contact orders, and stalking protection orders. Court personnel are knowledgeable about domestic violence issues and can assist a victim in completing domestic violence or antiharassment forms. However, court personnel cannot give legal advice.
Appeals from Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
Cases are appealed from "the record" made in the lower court. In courts of limited jurisdiction, the record is made from an electronic recording of the original proceedings and court documents. The cases are appealed to superior court where only legal errors from the proceeding below are argued.
There is no additional evidence or testimony presented on appeal. The one exception is an appeal from a small claims case. Small claims cases are heard de novo (or anew) in superior court on the record from the court of limited jurisdiction.
District court judges are elected to four-year terms. All judges are required to attend 45 hours of judicial training every three years.
Judges of courts of limited jurisdiction belong to the District and Municipal Court Judges' Association. The association was created by state statute to study and make recommendations concerning the operation of courts served by its members.
Court Support Personnel
Courts of limited jurisdiction are served by an administrative support staff. Under the direction of the presiding judge, the staff is responsible for maintaining the court's fiscal, administrative and court records.
Courts of limited jurisdiction have authority to order probation for up to two years, except in DUI and domestic violence convictions where a court can order probation for up to five years. A probation counselor administers programs that provide supervision and probationary treatment for misdemeanant offenders in a district or municipal court.
The probation counselor periodically advises the district/municipal court judges of an offender's progress while the offender in on supervision.