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 CourtsDistrict 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 CourtsJustice 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 CourtsCity 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 CourtsMunicipal 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 CourtThe 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 CourtThe 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 Court NotesMany Montana courts have programs that can set up treatment in lieu of incarceration for some offenders with substance abuse or mental health problems. "Treatment Court" programs include Adult Drug Court, Juvenile Drug Court, Youth Drug Court, Family Treatment Court, and Mental Health Court.
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.
|Case Type||Court Type|
|Civil||District Courts||Justice Courts||City Courts||Municipal Courts|
|General Civil - Unlimited|
|General Civil - Limited|
|Foreclosures and Liens|
|Real Estate Title and Boundary|
|Landlord / Tenant|
|Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders|
|Administrative Agency Appeals|
|Criminal||District Courts||Justice Courts||City Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Felony Preliminary Hearings|
|Traffic and Infractions|
|Domestic Relations||District Courts||Justice Courts||City Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Child Custody and Visitation|
|Domestic Violence Protection Order|
|Juvenile||District Courts||Justice Courts||City Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Child Abuse and Neglect|
|Termination of Parental Rights|
|Children in Need of Supervision|
|Mental Health||District Courts||Justice Courts||City Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Other Mental Health Cases|
|Probate||District Courts||Justice Courts||City Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Wills & Estates|
|Guardianships and Conservatorships|