Summary Review of Court Systems -
Structure of Civil Courts
General district courts with mixed dockets. The district courts are organized into 22 different districts, some of which contain a number of different counties. Thus, some judges are “traveling judges” who preside over several different counties in the less populated regions.
Basis of Jurisdiction
Amount in controversy. District courts hear civil cases in any amount, as well as domestic relations, criminal, juvenile, probate, and mental health cases. District court decisions may be appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals (in some cases directly to the Colorado Supreme Court).
County Courts handle civil cases under $25,000, misdemeanors, traffic infractions, felony complaints (which may be sent to district court), protection orders, and small claims. County court decisions may be appealed to the district court.
Water Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over cases relating to the determination of water rights, use and administration of water, and all other water matters. There are seven water courts, one in each of the major river basins in Colorado.
No specialized commercial courts.
There is no requirement to mediate before filing an action in district court. If the parties voluntarily elect to mediate before filing an action they may do so. A contract provision requiring mediation before filing an action is enforceable. Many courts require that the parties engage in alternative dispute resolution before setting trial and set a deadline for completion of ADR in the case management order. This requirement depends on the jurisdiction. Mediation is non-binding unless the parties agree to a resolution at mediation in writing.
The Colorado Dispute Resolution Act, C.R.S. 13-22-301 et seq., provided for office of dispute resolution programs in certain district courts as funds allow. Some of these court provided neutrals are free (depending upon the case and the parties) and some are contracted for a lower than commercial rate. None of the parties to commercial disputes in district courts use these programs. Rather, all parties privately contract for the services through third-party neutrals who have experience in mediating the particular dispute.
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