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District courts are created by the Constitution. They are the record and trial courts of Kansas, with general original jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, including divorce and domestic relations, damage suits, probate and administration of estates, guardianships, conservatorships, care of the mentally ill, juvenile matters, and small claims. It is here that the criminal and civil jury trials are held. District courts also have appellate jurisdiction over municipal courts. Appeals may be taken from the district courts to the Court of Appeals, or to the Supreme Court.
There are two types of judges in the district courts: district judges who must be law-trained and district magistrate judges. There is at least one resident judge in each county. District judges have full judicial power over all cases filed in the district courts and have appellate jurisdiction over appeals of decisions from district magistrate judges. District magistrate judges have jurisdiction over traffic infractions, cigarette or tobacco infractions as well as criminal misdemeanors and juvenile cases. The magistrate has authority to conduct preliminary hearings and arraignments in criminal felonies. The magistrate also has jurisdiction over probate matters. In civil matters, the magistrates have concurrent jurisdiction with district judges except for those actions specifically listed in K.S.A. 20-302b.
Kansas is divided into 31 judicial districts, with a varying number of counties and judges in each district. There is a district court in each county and an office of the clerk of the court where cases may be filed. There are currently 5 counties who have two courthouses in each county: Crawford, Neosho, Montgomery, Cowley and Labette.
The State Supreme Court appoints a district judge as chief judge for each judicial district. The chief judge, in addition to his or her judicial responsibilities, has general control over the assignment of cases within the district and general supervisory authority over the clerical and administrative functions of the court.
The state is also divided into six judicial departments, each of which includes several judicial districts. One justice of the State Supreme Court serves as departmental justice over each department. The departmental justice may assign judges from one judicial district to another.