Honorable JAY C. SHEFFIELD
Justice Court is the judicial branch of county government responsible for processing misdemeanor criminal offenses, traffic offenses and Fish & Game violations occurring in Lincoln County. It is also the court where most people arrested for felony offenses have their initial appearance and bail set.
Justice Court also handles civil cases, small claims, landlord tenant issues and orders of protection.
- Conducts Jury or Bench Trials in both criminal and civil cases.
- Issues Search Warrants and Arrest Warrants.
- Provides initial appearance to persons arrested on warrants from outside Lincoln County and to persons arrested for probation/parole violations.
- Handles Civil Lawsuits not to exceed $12,000.00 and Small Claims actions up to $7,000.00.
- Hears landlord/tenant disputes, local ordinances, forcible entry and unlawful detainer as well as certain issues involving juveniles.
Justice Court Processes citations/arrests from:
- Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office
- Lincoln County Attorney’s Office
- Lincoln County Animal Control / Enviromental Health
- Montana Highway Patrol
- Motor Carrier Services fo the Department of Transportaion
- State Department of Livestock
- State Gambling Control Division
- Out of County or Out of State Warrants
- And, in some cases local Police Departments
Justice Court DOES NOT handle disputes involving false imprisonment, libel, slander, criminal conversation, malicious prosecution, determination of paternity, and abduction. Justice court also does not have jurisdiction over cases involving the title or possession of real estate, family law or child custody issues.
Justice Court Rules:
Procedure in the Justice Court is governed by the “Montana Justice and City Court Rules of Civil Procedure” and the “Montana Uniform Rules for Justice and City Courts” as written in Montana Code Annotated. Failure to follow the court rules may result in the failure to properly prosecute or defend an action in Justice Court.
Small Claims Division procedure is not governed by the same rules as other civil actions. Small Claims actions are governed by the “Small Claims Procedures – Justice Court”, found in Title 25 of the MCA.
Justice Court Can:
- Provide instructions and forms for the filing of Civil and Small claims lawsuits, Temporary Orders of Protection, etc.
- Provide handouts for other processes such as: a guide to help you represent yourself at trial without the aid of an attorney.
Justice Court Cannot:
- Give legal advice
- Recommend a particular attorney for your case
- Recommend a process server for you
- Fill out the forms that are provided by the court for you
- Settle disputes concerning the ownership of real property
- Help repossess vehicles or other items
- Do any investigation concerning where a debtor may have assets
Temporary Orders of Protection:
- Can only be issued to persons who qualify under 40-15-201 MCA. In order to receive a Temporary Order of Protection from the court you will be required to file a sworn written application with a statement that describes very specifically the threat posed to your physical safety by the other party and explain why you need the immediate protection of the court.
- The judge will read your application and if it meets the statutory requirements; it will be granted and you will then be provided a copy of the temporary order. The Sheriff’s Department will then serve a copy of both your written application and the temporary order on the other party.
- A court hearing will be held within 20 days. Your appearance at that hearing is MANDATORY. At the hearing both parties will be placed under oath and the judge will listen to argument from both sides before making his decision.
While it is highly recommended that you seek legal counsel, an attorney is not necessary for you to pursue or defend against any civil or criminal action in Justice Court. If you feel you need an attorney, you have a legal right to obtain one at any time during the proceedings (except in small claims court).