About Virginia Judicial System and Courts
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, litigants will have the opportunity to appear and seek relief in several different courts that serve specific functions. Generally speaking, courts in the Commonwealth hear and address matters that are criminal, civil, juvenile and domestic, and traffic cases. Under each of these general subjects are many, many subcategories that may be relevant to a particular issue you are having.
In addition to trial courts, Virginia has several appellate courts known as the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Virginia. Several Federal Courts also operate and have jurisdiction over matters in the Commonwealth of Virginia including the Eastern and Western District Courts and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Supreme Court of Virginia
The Supreme Court of Virginia is actually one of the oldest Courts in the United States, with its roots stemming from the Charter of 1606 under which Jamestown was settled. There are 31 Circuit Court jurisdictions that operate throughout the Commonwealth and are separated by geographic location. Circuit Courts hear criminal cases involving more serious offenses, called felonies, civil actions involving larger monetary claims, and appeals from District Courts.
District Courts of Virginia
There are 32 General District Court circuits that hear traffic cases, criminal cases involving minor offenses, and civil cases involving smaller monetary claims. Similar to General District Courts, there are 32 JDR circuits that have authority in matters related to juveniles and to domestic relations. The term “domestic relations” refers to family relationships.
Generally speaking, both circuit and district courts offer litigants an opportunity to appeal their cases to a higher or different court in order to review the decision of the Court or for a new trial, which may be addressed as “de novo” meaning a new trial and second chance to litigate a case. Ashwell & Ashwell can guide you through the appeals process and advise you on the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
Grand Juries and Felony Cases
In felony cases, an indictment is handed down from a grand jury which is separate and distinct from a jury that presides over a criminal or civil jury trial. A grand jury is made up of persons at least 18 years old, who resided in the Commonwealth for at least a year; and had been in the jurisdiction they are called for jury duty for at least six months preceding their service.
Ashwell & Ashwell can guide you through the state and federal court process and assist you through the numerous options the Court system provides litigants.