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How do Alaska Courts work?

The Supreme Court acts as the highest legal authority in the state of Alaska. This gives it the power to review decisions made by lower courts, such as the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court can weigh in on any legal debates, conflicts or precedents when needed. In turn, the Court of Appeals carries out the same function over courts below it, but only when one party appeals a decision made. These lower courts are made up of the 30 superior or trial courts across the 30 state boroughs. Other tiers of court include the Appellate Courts, The Alaska Supreme Court, The Clerk of the Appellate Courts, The Superior Court, The District Court, The State-wide Court Administration, as well as other Justice System Participants.

Civil Cases and Small Claims

Civil and small claims cases work in different ways, and deal with different subject matters and different sums of money. For example, civil court usually deals with cases in which the petitioner is seeking over $250,000 in funds. There are close to 200,000 of these cases each year in Alaska. However, civil court can also deal with non-monetary cases, including names changes, property, and restraining order disputes. On the other hand, small claims court deals with cases in which the petitioner in question is seeking $10,000 or under. This is not represented by counsel, and there are close to 200,000 of these cases every year. These can include disputes over loans, repairs, warranties, deposits, and more, as long as the sum is below $10,000. The small claims court also has the power to order the defendant into an action, such as paying a fee.

Appeals and court limits

There are also a number of key differences between the appeals processes and the court limits in small claims and civil cases. For example, pretrial discovery is allowed in civil cases, but not in small claims court. In civil court, a person is allowed to hire a lawyer to represent them and file papers on their behalf, but neither are allowed in small claims court. Either party can appeal a decision made in civil court, but only the defendant can appeal in small claims court. In small claims court, there is a case filing fee of between $30 and $100, and then each party is given 30-70 days to complete their respective cases. On the other hand, civil cases have a filing fee of between $180 and $320, and each party is then given up to 120 days to complete their case.

Why are court records public?

The Alaska Public Records Act was passed back in 1982, with the most recent amendments coming in 2003. The aim of the act was to ensure that all people living in Alaska could access all public records. This is viewed as a fundamental right of the people of Alaska. All records held by the state and local government can be accessed by members of the public, unless law forbids it. This not only safeguards government accountability, but it promotes a sense of transparency too.

To access records:


Clerk of the Appellate Courts
303 K Street
Anchorage, AK 99501
phone: (907) 264-0608
fax: (907) 264-0878


Alaska Court Structure
Alaska State Archives

State Archives

Contact: (855) 217-9577

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Results are based upon available information from state, county and municipal databases, and may not include some or all of the above details.


The Homer Courthouse, located in Homer, Alaska, was built in the early 1900s.

  • There are two appellate courts in Alaska. These are the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.
  • The Supreme Court is the highest level of court in the state. The courts have five judges who serve 10 year terms.
  • The first chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court was Buell A. Nesbett, who started his term in 1959.
  • The court of appeals is the second highest court in the state and has three serving judges that serve 8 year terms.
  • There are 4 district courts in Alaska for each of the states four judicial districts.