The Maze of Mississippi’s Court System Made Simple


The Mississippi court system plays a crucial role in administering Mississippi law. The system is complicated, and today we will break everything into understandable chunks. We will introduce you to the key components of the Mississippi court system, ranging from the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals to Circuit, Chancery, County, Justice, Special, Municipal, and Youth Courts. By understanding the structure and functions of each court, you can feel confident that these courts are here to serve you. Rather than having to fight it out in the streets court, the courts can become your way of leaning towards settling your difficulties.


The Supreme Court:

Serving as the highest court in the state, the Mississippi Supreme Court is the court of last resort in this state. With nine justices elected from three districts, this court handles appeals on a wide range of issues, including constitutional challenges, divorce cases, criminal cases, and cases of broad public interest. A majority vote makes decisions that control court rulings throughout the state.


The Court of Appeals:

Designed to expedite the appeals process, the Court of Appeals acts to speed the process of hearings. Its ten judges, elected from five districts, review cases assigned by the Supreme Court. While this court primarily focuses on disputes where the law is settled, but facts are disputed, its decisions can be reviewed by the Supreme Court, providing an additional layer of scrutiny.


Circuit Courts:

Circuit courts are primarily responsible for felony criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits based on the dollar amount of damages. Circuit Courts also handle appeals from lower courts. Cases in Circuit Court are usually heard in front of a 12-person jury. However, if the dispute in court is a question of law and not a question of fact, a judge may preside without a jury in a bench trial.


Chancery Courts:

Chancery Courts possess the power to decide domestic disputes, such as divorce cases or child custody matters, guardianships, and other cases involving wills and constitutionality challenges. Matters in Chancery Court are often heard without a jury. The judge in a chancery court is called a chancellor. Chancery Courts have a long and interesting history. In England, if you couldn’t get the outcome you wanted in a court of law, you could go to the king and make your case. Eventually, the king handed his duty to hear such matters to his chancellor, who eventually created Chancery Court.


County Courts:

County Courts hear both criminal and civil matters. County Courts have exclusive power over eminent domain proceedings (cases where the government takes private land for public use) and juvenile matters. These courts share civil jurisdiction with Circuit and Chancery Courts. County Courts handle non-capital felony cases transferred from Circuit Court and have concurrent jurisdiction with Justice and City Courts. Not every county in the state has a County Court. The county must have 50,000 residents. After the 2020 census, Oktibbeha and Lafayette County added a County Court because it reached 50,000 residents.


Justice Courts:

Justice Courts focus on small claims civil cases, misdemeanor criminal cases, and traffic offenses outside municipalities. They are the only courts where judges are elected through partisan races. The judges can run as either a Republican or Democrat. Interestingly, Justice court judges do not have to hold a law degree to sit on the bench. However, even though Justice Court judges do not need a law degree, they are still important because most cases in Mississippi are heard in Justice Court, which is often times referred to as the “People’s Court.” Cases heard in a Justice Court can automatically be appealed to a higher court.


Intervention Courts:

Intervention Courts, also known as drug courts, address crimes committed by individuals struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. These courts aim to rehabilitate offenders through drug treatment programs and intensive supervision while ensuring compliance with program requirements.


Municipal Courts:

Handling misdemeanor crimes, municipal ordinances, and city traffic violations, Municipal Courts have jurisdiction within their respective municipalities. Most judges are appointed by governing bodies, such as a Board of Aldermen, and their terms of office vary.


Youth Courts:

In the realm of juvenile justice, Youth Courts play a critical role in addressing matters concerning the abuse, neglect, and offenses committed by young individuals. These courts specifically handle cases involving individuals under the age of 18, with certain exceptions. If committed by adults, offenses that would be considered crimes are categorized as delinquent acts within the Youth Court system.


Finding an Attorney

When you are searching the state of Mississippi for a qualified, experienced criminal defense attorney, look no further than Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. No matter the circumstances of your case, the sooner you get in touch with a qualified criminal defense attorney, the better chance you have for a favorable outcome. Over the years, we have helped numerous offenders who have been charged with crimes. Please call us for a free consultation today, and we can help you defend yourself when you are arrested and charged with a crime in Mississippi.


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