Alabama State Court System

  • Small Claims Courts: have jurisdiction over civil matters in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $3,000.
  • District Courts: have jurisdiction over civil matters in which the amount in controversy exceeds $3,000, but does not exceed $10,000.
  • Circuit Courts: have general jurisdiction over most legal matters brought in Alabama State Court. Circuit Courts can exercise jurisdiction over civil matters in which the amount in controversy exceeds $3,000 and have exclusive jurisdiction over civil matters in which the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000.
  • The Court of Civil Appeals: has jurisdiction over civil appeals where the amount in controversy does not exceed $50,000.
  • The Supreme Court of Alabama: is the state’s highest court and has the authority to review the decisions reached in Alabama’s lower courts. The Supreme Court of Alabama also has the authority to review civil matters where the amount in controversy exceeds $50,000.

*Some of the above courts in the Alabama State Court System also have jurisdiction over certain criminal proceedings which are not covered here.

Pleadings

In the beginning stages of a lawsuit legal documents called pleadings are filed. To initiate the lawsuit, the plaintiff files a pleading called a Complaint which sets forth one or more causes of action against the defendant(s) named in the Complaint. After the Plaintiff files the Complaint and properly serves the Complaint on the Defendant(s), the Defendant(s) then have 30 days from the date of service to file a pleading called an Answer. The Defendant(s)’ Answer will respond to each of the causes of action in the Plaintiff’s Complaint and set forth any defenses, cross claims and/or counter claims the Defendant(s) will raise.

Discovery

After all parties to the lawsuit have filed pleadings, the case then proceeds to Discovery. Essentially, the discovery process is a fact-finding and investigative endeavor in which each party gathers information and evidence from opposing parties and/or non-party witnesses. While the discovery process includes a variety of other mechanisms used to gather information, it will generally consist of the following:

  • Written Discovery is generally used at the start of discovery and comes in two basic forms:

    • Interrogatories – Formal questions and/or requests for information served on one party by an opposing party. The party served with interrogatories must provide written responses to each of the interrogatories or respond with an objection to the interrogatory.
    • Requests for Production of Documents– Often served with a set of interrogatories, requests for production of documents are formal requests for certain documentation relevant to the claims and defenses raised in the pleadings.
  • Depositions – In a deposition, either a party to the lawsuit or a non-party witness will provide oral testimony under oath and in the presence of a court reporter who makes a written record of everything said during the deposition.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Before the lawsuit goes to trial, the parties may elect to schedule a mediation to attempt to resolve the matter.

If the parties agree to ADR, they would then agree to hire a private judge to preside over the case. The private judge must be a former/retired Alabama state judge with at least six years of bench experience. Once the case is filed in state court the parties can agree to ask the trial court judge to appoint a private judge to preside over the case. Both parties then split the costs of the private judge and the case proceeds as if it were in the traditional court system. Parties may appeal a private judge’s ruling to the state’s appellate courts.

Trial

If the parties have not reached a settlement through mediation or otherwise, at the conclusion of discovery, the case then proceeds to trial. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial can take as little as a single day or as long as several weeks to complete. At the conclusion of a typical civil trial, the jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff and award money damages to the plaintiff or the jury will return a verdict for the defendant finding that the defendant was not at fault.

Motions and Appeals

After the jury returns their verdict, the parties may file post trial motions and/or appeal the verdict to the appropriate appellate court in Alabama.

DISCLAIMER:

The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.

By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Alabama. Should you have a question/concern specific to Alabama law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Alabama.