The Wisconsin trial court system consists of Circuit Courts and Municipal Courts.
Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, but typically will not handle cases that are within the jurisdiction of Municipal Courts. Municipal Courts have limited jurisdiction over most municipal ordinance violations.
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Wisconsin Circuit CourtsCircuit Courts have original jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases, but typically handle cases beyond Municipal Court jurisdiction. All jury trials are heard in Circuit Courts.
Circuit Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all criminal cases. Circuit Courts typically do not handle ordinance violations within the jurisdiction of a Municipal Court.
Civil cases heard by Circuit Courts include general civil claims, civil equity cases, domestic relations, probate matters and most juvenile cases.
Wisconsin Municipal CourtsMunicipal Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over most ordinance violations. Cases typically handled by Municipal Courts include traffic violations, ordinance violations and non-jury trials for first offense drunk driving.
Municipal Courts also handle some juvenile cases, including truancy, alcohol violations, drug offenses and curfew violations. Municipal Courts do not offer jury trials and cases with proper requests are transferred to Circuit Courts. Municipal Courts do not have jurisdiction over cases requesting equitable relief.
Ordinance violations are heard by Circuit Courts in areas without Municipal Courts.
Wisconsin Problem Solving CourtsWisconsin is in the process of developing several "problem solving" court divisions to handle certain types of cases, including drug treatment courts, mental health treatment courts, specialized juvenile courts, domestic violence courts, and offender reentry courts.
These programs operate as specialized divisions of Circuit Courts.
Where to find court cases in WisconsinThe chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of court in Wisconsin.