JUSTICE of the PEACE COURTS
Justice of the Peace Court (often referred to as JP courts), are limited in their jurisdiction. That is, they do not have the authority to hear cases such as Divorce/child custody, Title to real estate, and Juveniles cases, which under the rules of court are reserved for Superior Courts only.
Justice Courts (like Municipal Courts), have authority (called jurisdiction) to hear cases in;
1. Civil Traffic, as to the laws in Ariz. Revised Statutes (ARS) 28 and Rules of Procedures in Civil Traffic.
2. Criminal Traffic, per the laws in ARS 28 and Rules of Procedure in Traffic Cases.
3. Misdemeanor criminal cases, per ARS 13, and Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Generally, the cases cited into JP court are those occurring outside of the municipal jurisdiction, as the city cases are usually cited into city court. But the JP court can, and sometimes does hear cases occurring within the city jurisdiction, so long as the case occur within the JP precinct boundaries. Graham County is divided into only two precincts, with 20th Ave. in Safford being the dividing line between #1 (to the East) and #2 (to the West).
In addition to Traffic and Criminal cases, Justice Courts also hear:
4. Felony cases (CR), to determine if there is enough evidence to send it to the Superior Court for “Arraignment” of the felony charges. This JP proceeding is called a Preliminary Hearing.
5. Civil cases (CV), filed in JP court have changed over the past years. Their jurisdiction was once limited to $500, then increased to $1000, and then $5000, and is currently limited at $10,000. In 2012, the Senate has proposed that the jurisdictional limit increase to $25,000. Civil cases may be claims of debt, such as credit cards, contract disputes, goods and services, injury cases, etc. The jurisdictional limits refers only to the direct and original damages, which does not include additional claims such as attorney fees and other costs the plaintiff may seek in addition to their complaint. In 2012, the Arizona Supreme Court is working on a re-write of the court rules for civil cases in Justice courts.
6. Small Claims cases (SC), which usually are smaller versions of civil cases, have their own set of court rules and evidence procedures. The rules for these cases are designed to be quicker and simpler for the “pro-per” citizen (proceeding without an attorney). Generally, attorneys are not allowed to appear in SC cases. SC actions are limited to $2500 (plus fees, interest, and costs).
7. Evictions cases (FD), where a landlord is suing their tenant, to recover possession of the property prior to the expiration of their contract. Where the landlord has “let out” their property to a tenant, the tenant has the rights to the property, not the landlord, until the court issues an order to return the property to the landlord. These cases are very fact specific. The laws and rules for evictions are under Title 12 (Evictions), Title 33 (Landlord/ Tenant Act), in conjunction with the terms of their contract, and also have their own set of court rules, referred to as Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions. Procedurally, the judge has little discretion here.
8. Orders of Protection, “exparte hearings” where only one party is present and presents an application for a protective order, as well as full hearings where both parties are present to present their case (and to defend), and also for hearings requested by the defendant after an exparte order was approved and issued.