Last updated: November 8, 2013
Right on the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk is the cultural center for the Hampton Roads region. Although technically part of the American South, Norfolk has a distinctly culture due to the diverse population brought together by the large military bases nearby. Virginia Beach may be Norfolk's relaxed neighbor, with its varied resorts, beaches, and nightlife. For better or for worse, however, one thing residents of each may have in common is an eventual trip to court, whether it be as a juror, witness, or party.
The Virginia court system consists of two layers at the trial level. Generally, the big-time Circuit Courts have jurisdiction over large civil lawsuits and felony criminal cases, while the small-time District Courts’ jurisdiction is limited to misdemeanors and civil actions worth less than $25,000. The specialized Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts handle specific types of cases.
There are two federal courts for the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia in or around Norfolk. There are so many courthouses in Hampton Roads, and their exact purposes are tough to figure out, so FindLaw has created this guide to Virginia Beach and Norfolk courthouses to help you find the right one.
The Norfolk Circuit Court is the court of general jurisdiction for Norfolk, which means it handles the biggest cases at the trial level. It has jurisdiction over civil lawsuits worth more than $4,500 (and exclusive jurisdiction for suits worth more than $25,000). They also handle felony criminal prosecutions and probate matters. Read up on their thorough self-help manuals before you file lawsuit in Circuit Court.
The Norfolk General District Court is like the Circuit Court’s younger sibling. They handle the same types of cases, but only when the stakes are much lower. Typically, they handle misdemeanor criminal cases, traffic or parking violations and civil lawsuits worth less than $25,000. The District Court has exclusive authority over lawsuits worth less than $4,500. They also conduct preliminary hearings for felony cases before move to Circuit Court for trial. If you already have a case in District Court try looking it up online. If you need to pay a traffic ticket, you can save time by paying online.
As its name suggests, the Norfolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court handles cases involving minors. They oversee cases where minors commit criminal offenses and domestic violence prosecutions. They also determine issues of child support, child custody and visitation rights. Finally, they hear cases of child abuse or neglect, and determine when it is appropriate to remove a child from his or her home.
The Portsmouth Judicial Center houses the both the Portsmouth Circuit and District Courts. As noted above, the District Court handles relatively small civil lawsuits, misdemeanors and felony preliminary hearings, while the Circuit Court handles felonies and large civil actions.
The Hampton City Circuit Court handles large civil lawsuits and felony criminal cases for the city of Hampton. As noted above, they have exclusive jurisdiction over civil lawsuits worth more than $25,000, and share jurisdiction with the District Court for cases between $4,500 and $25,000.
The Hampton General District Court handles minor criminal offenses and relatively smaller civil lawsuits. They have exclusive jurisdiction for civil cases worth $4,500 or less, and share jurisdiction with the Circuit Court for cases between $4,500 and $25,000. On the criminal side, the District Court typically hears misdemeanor cases, but also conducts felony preliminary hearings.
The Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court handles cases where minors are accused of committing a criminal offense, domestic violence cases, child abuse or neglect and determines issues of child support, visitation and custody.
The Newport News Courthouse is your one-stop-shop for all your judicial needs. It holds the Circuit Court, which handles felonies and major civil actions, the District Court, which handles misdemeanors and smaller civil lawsuits, and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, which handles juveniles who commit crimes, domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, child custody, visitation rights and child support.
The Virginia Beach Judicial Center conveniently combines the Circuit Court (on the 4th floor), District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court into a single complex. All your courthouse needs can be addressed at this location.
The Walter E. Hoffman U.S. Courthouse is a branch of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. They only handle federal matters in this court. There is paid parking on the corner of Boush and Freemason Streets.
The Newport News U.S. Courthouse houses a branch of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. This court only handles federal matters at the trial level. The best place to park is on the corner of 23rd St. and West Ave., but make sure you bring exact change of $3.00.