The judicial system and its players
- Misdemeanors: This refers to lesser crimes such as DUI, theft, disorderly conduct etc.
- Felonies: These are crimes that are punishable by more than one year of incarceration.Larceny, homicide, rape, aggravated assault, burglary are all felonies.
District and Municipal Courts
Every county in the state of Washington also has a superior court; these judicial bodies are authorized to preside over matters that are beyond the scope of the district and municipal courts. So, there are 39 superior courts in Washington; these trial courts have general jurisdiction.
Judges of superior courts preside over cases pertaining to child custody, divorce and law suits where the claim amount exceeds $50,000. These courts also hold trial in felony cases. Because they are on a higher level than district and municipal courts, they also act as a court of appeals where a verdict delivered at the district/municipal level can be challenged. Superior court judges are elected for a four year term.
Court of Appeals
These tribunals consider appeals filed against judgments of the superior courts. Unlike the Supreme Court of Washington, which has discretionary jurisdiction, all defendants who have been found guilty can approach the Court of Appeals. In the state of Washington there are three divisions of this judicial body based in Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane.
The Court of Appeals has mandatory jurisdiction as explained above hence it hears civil as well as criminal matters appealed from all superior courts across the state. The judges of the Court of appeals serve six year terms.
The Supreme Court
The highest judicial entity in the state, the Supreme Court of Washington has discretionary jurisdiction which means that they can choose which cases to hear. Located at the Washington State Capital campus in Olympia, the Washington Supreme Court has a chief justice and 8 justices who are elected to six years terms. Because terms are staggered, three members of the bench are elected every two years. The mandatory age for retirement of a Supreme Court justice is 75 years.
Most cases heard by the Supreme Court appeals against a verdict/decision given by the Washington Court of Appeals. The court also presides over matters that are known as original cases which are writs to force or prevent an official of the government from performing his duties.