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Finding Court Records in Montana

Montana Courts Overview

It helps to understand how the Montana state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The Montana trial court system consists of District Courts, Justice Courts, City Courts, Municipal Courts, Water Court, and Workers' Compensation Court.

District Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, but usually only handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts. Justice Courts, City Courts and Municipal Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases. The Montana Water Court and Workers’ Compensation Court are specialized trial courts that handle certain types of cases for the entire state.

If you prefer, you can start your search by going to Montana Courts by County.

Montana District Courts

District Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, but generally only handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts.

Criminal cases heard by District Courts include felony criminal cases and most misdemeanor criminal cases.

Civil cases heard by District Courts include general civil claims, probate matters and naturalization cases. District Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over civil claims for money damages against the State.

Montana Justice Courts

Justice Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases.

Criminal cases heard by Justice Courts include felony preliminary proceedings and most misdemeanors. Justice Courts share jurisdiction with District Courts for certain types of misdemeanors.

Civil cases heard by Justice Courts include most general civil claims with disputes of $7000 or less, exclusive of costs. Justice Courts can not hear certain types of cases, including disputes over title to real estate and certain claims against the State.

Each Justice Court has a Small Claims Court division that handles most general civil claims with disputes of $3000 or less, exclusive of costs.

Montana City Courts

City Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of criminal and civil cases.

Criminal cases heard by City Courts are limited to criminal violations of city or town ordinances. City Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over these cases.

Civil cases heard by City Courts include civil municipal ordinance violations, certain tax collection cases and certain cases brought against a city or town.

City Courts share some jurisdiction with other courts over certain types of cases.

Montana Municipal Courts

Municipal Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases.

Criminal cases heard by Municipal Courts are limited to criminal violations of city or town ordinances. Municipal Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over these cases.

Civil cases heard by Municipal Courts include civil municipal ordinance violations, certain tax collection cases and certain cases brought against the city or town.

Municipal Courts share some jurisdiction with other courts over certain types of cases.

Montana Water Court

The Montana Water Court has exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving water rights claims.

Cases typically handled by the Water Court include claims based in state law, as well as claims based on Indian and Federal water rights.

The Montana Water Court handles cases from around the state out of one office location.

Montana Workers' Compensation Court

The Workers' Compensation Court has exclusive jurisdiction over cases arising under the Montana Workers' Compensation Act and the Montana Occupational Disease Act.

The Workers' Compensation Court has exclusive jurisdiction over certain contractor exemptions and reemployment preferences. This court also reviews final orders from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and imposes civil penalties for violations of certain workers' compensation laws.

Montana Treatment and DUI Courts

Treatment courts include Adult Drug Court, Juvenile Drug Court, Youth Drug Court, Family Treatment Court, and Mental Health Court. These courts can set up treatment programs in lieu of incarceration for some offenders with substance abuse or mental health problems.

DUI courts can set up treatment programs in addition to incarceration, and may be included in drug courts.

Where to Find Court Cases in Montana

The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of Montana court.

Most Cases = Most or all cases.     Some Cases = Some cases.

Case Type Court Type
Civil District Courts Justice Courts City Courts Municipal Courts
General Civil - Unlimited Most or All Cases      
General Civil - Limited Some Cases Some Cases    
Small Claims Some Cases Some Cases    
Civil Equity Most or All Cases      
Complex Commercial Most or All Cases      
Foreclosures and Liens Some Cases Some Cases    
Real Estate Title and Boundary Most or All Cases      
Landlord / Tenant Some Cases Some Cases    
Ordinance Violations   Some Cases Most or All Cases Most or All Cases
Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders Most or All Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Administrative Agency Appeals Most or All Cases      
Criminal District Courts Justice Courts City Courts Municipal Courts
Felony Most or All Cases      
Felony Preliminary Hearings Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Misdemeanors Some Cases Most or All Cases    
Ordinance Violations   Some Cases Most or All Cases Most or All Cases
Juvenile Most or All Cases      
Traffic and Infractions   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Domestic Relations District Courts Justice Courts City Courts Municipal Courts
Divorce Most or All Cases      
Child Custody and Visitation Most or All Cases      
Child Support Most or All Cases      
Paternity Most or All Cases      
Domestic Violence Protection Order Most or All Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Juvenile District Courts Justice Courts City Courts Municipal Courts
Adoptions Most or All Cases      
Juvenile Delinquency Most or All Cases      
Child Abuse and Neglect Most or All Cases      
Termination of Parental Rights Most or All Cases      
Children in Need of Supervision Most or All Cases      
Mental Health District Courts Justice Courts City Courts Municipal Courts
Involuntary Commitments Most or All Cases      
Other Mental Health Cases Some Cases Some Cases    
Probate District Courts Justice Courts City Courts Municipal Courts
Wills & Estates Most or All Cases      
Name Changes Most or All Cases      
Trusts Most or All Cases      
Guardianships and Conservatorships Most or All Cases      

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