Last updated: October 11, 2013
Washington D.C. It’s the capital of the United States and, some would argue, the center of the universe. It’s packed with history, sightseeing, culture, and entertainment. “The District” has a population of almost 630,00 residents that jumps to over 1 million during the workweek. The city is notable for many things ---The White House, headquarters for all three branches of government (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial), George Washington, the March on Washington, the Redskins, the Nationals, and also a very expansive court system.
If you’re a Washingtonian living in the D.C. metropolitan area, you know there are a myriad of courthouses to sort through. If you have a criminal, civil, probate or family law matter, it’s likely in the Superior Court.
Here we’ve highlighted several key court systems you’ll most likely encounter: the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit, the U.S District and Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, and the Immigration Court.
Note: This branch hears both civil and criminal state court appeals. It is the highest state court in the district. If you are requesting an appeal, call the courthouse directly or seek legal assistance.
Note: The Civil Branch has jurisdiction over civil cases involving more than $5000 in damages. The Criminal Branch handles all traffic and criminal matters including community and drug courts. The Domestic Violence Division handles cases in which parties request protection orders against persons related by blood, legal custody, marriage, having a child in common, sharing of the same residence (currently or in the past), having a romantic dating relationship (currently or in the past), parties with a partner in common (currently or in the past), or parties who claim they have been stalked. The Family Division handles cases involving child abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency, adoption, divorce, custody, guardianship, visitation, paternity, child support , termination of parental rights, as well as mental health and habilitation. There’s also a Self Help Center in the building.
Note: This court has a free legal information clinic for both unrepresented landlords and tenants who have residential housing disputes. The Small Claims branch handles disputes under $5000.
Note: The Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division helps parties settle disputes through mediation and other types of appropriate dispute resolution (ADR).
Division: Probate, Civil, Family, and Tax
Note: The Auditor-Master states accounts, determines the value of assets and makes other financial calculations after hearing testimony and receiving documentation from parties. Cases are referred to the Auditor-Master by the courts.
Division: This is the highest court in the nation and handles appeals involving interpretations of the U. S. Constitution or federal law.
Note: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the building if you are in the area. Go on a tour or hear oral arguments. Have fun. Take pictures. Just not in the Courtroom. It’s strictly prohibited.
Division: Appeals, Criminal and Civil
Note: The Court has jurisdiction over all criminal appeals and most civil appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Note: This Court handles all federal cases. If you have a criminal matter you may contact the Federal Prosecutor or the Federal Public Defender. This location also houses the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the U.S. Probation Office.