Summary Review of Court Systems -


Structure of Civil Courts

There are three levels of civil courts in Utah: district courts, the Utah Court of Appeals, and the Utah Supreme Court. There are eight judicial districts with seventy-one judges. The Utah Court of Appeals has seven judges. There are five justices on the Utah Supreme Court.

District courts hear and decide most original civil cases in Utah. District courts are trial courts of general jurisdiction with authority to hear and decide a wide range of cases. The district courts have “original jurisdiction in all matters civil and criminal, not excepted in the Utah Constitution and not prohibited by law.”

The Utah Court of Appeals examines district court decisions as well as cases the Supreme Court transfers to it. The Utah Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction, including the power to review and revise lower court decisions. Also, the court of appeals reviews cases where the Utah Supreme Court has original appellate jurisdiction but transfers the case to the court of Appeals.

The Utah Supreme Court reviews decisions of lower courts and hears few original cases. The Utah Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over decisions from the court of appeals and cases the court of appeals certifies to the Utah Supreme Court before hearing the case. Furthermore, the Utah Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over a discretionary subset of cases: extraordinary writ proceedings involving restraints on personal liberty or the malfeasance/nonfeasance of public authority. An example of an extraordinary writ proceeding is when a city official refuses to put a citizen referendum on the ballot. The Utah Supreme Court is nonetheless primarily a court of appellate jurisdiction.

Basis of Jurisdiction

The Utah Constitution and Utah Code give jurisdictional authority to Utah’s courts. The Utah Constitution grants the Utah Supreme Court and district courts judicial power and gives the Utah Legislature the ability to create other courts as needed. In 1987, the Utah Legislature created the Utah Court of Appeals.

Commercial Courts

Utah does not have commercial courts or business courts.


Alternatives to civil court trials are encouraged in Utah. Mediation is “a private forum in which one or more impartial persons facilitate communication between parties to a civil action to promote a mutually acceptable resolution or settlement.” And arbitration is “a private hearing before a neutral or panel of neutrals who hear the evidence, consider the contentions of the parties, and enter a written award to resolve the issues presented.” Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) encompasses both mediation and arbitration.

Utah’s goal is that ADR proceedings are just as, if not more, effective and just than civil trial courts. The Utah ADR Act outlines rules governing voluntary and involuntary ADR. The legislature designed these rules to inform and protect the parties and ensure that alternative resolutions are “just, speedy, and inexpensive.” In ADR proceedings, decisions are enforceable and communications are confidential.

Utah courts make ADR accessible by providing resources for attorneys and parties. The Utah courts website has a flow chart that illustrates what ADR programs are available by each court and topic. That website also provides a list of court qualified mediators and arbitrators. The website lists all the applicable statutes and provides an overview of the ethical requirements and discipline for ADR providers.

[1] Map of Courts & Judicial Districts, Utah Courts (last visited June, 9, 2020).

[2] Utah Code Ann. § 78A-4-102(1) (West 2020).

[3] Utah Code Ann. § 78A-3-101(1) (West 2020).

[4] General jurisdiction, Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019); original jurisdiction, Black’s Law Dictionary, (11th ed. 2019).

[5] Utah Code Ann. § 78A-5-102 (West 2020), §78A-5-101 (1).

[6] Utah Code Ann. § 78A-3-102 (West 2020); appellate jurisdiction, Black’s Law Dictionary, (11th ed. 2019).

[7] Utah Code Ann. § 78A-3-102 (West 2020). The Utah Supreme Court may not transfer certain cases it holds original appellate jurisdiction over to the Utah Court of Appeals. Those include capital felony cases.

[8] Utah Code Ann. § 78A-3-102 (West 2020).

[9] Utah Code Ann. § 78A-3-102 (West 2020); Utah R. Civ. Pro. 65B (West 2019).

[10] Utah Code Ann. § 20A-7-602.7 (West 2020); Mouty v. The Sandy City Recorder, 2005 UT 41, ¶.8-9, 122 P.3d 521, 524-25. In 2019 the Utah legislature created district court jurisdiction over whether local government actions are referable. Prior to 2019, the Utah Supreme Court had exclusive original jurisdiction over these actions.

[11] Snyder v. Labor Comm’n, 2017 UT App 187, ¶ 15, 405 P.3d 984, 989.

[12] Utah Const. art. VIII § 1; Utah Code Ann. § 78A-1-101 (West, 2020).

[13] Renn v. Utah State Bd. of Pardons, 904 P.2d 677, 681 (Utah 1995).

[14] Jenni Bergal, States set up ‘Business Courts’ for Corporate Conflicts, Governing the Future of States and Localities (October 28, 2015)

[15] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-202 (West, 2020).

[16] Id.

[17] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-10-103 (West, 2020).

[18] Utah Code. Ann. § 78B-6-203(1) (West, 2020); Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-205 (1) (West, 2020).

[19] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-206, 207, 208 (West, 2020).

[20]  Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs, Utah Courts (Last visited June 9, 2020).

[21] Court-Qualified Mediators/Arbitrators, Utah Courts (Last visited June 8, 2020).

[22] Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Utah- Governing Rules and Statutes, Utah Courts (Last visited June 9, 2020); Ethics and Discipline for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Providers, Utah Courts (Last visited June 9, 2020).