The Alaska Court System is responsible for settling legal disputes in the State of Alaska. It comprises all the courts at the State level in Alaska and is also known as the Alaska State Judiciary. Courts in the State of Alaska hear and decide different cases based on their different jurisdictions. The courts' decisions are regulated by the law to ensure fairness, accuracy, transparency, and integrity in judgment. Along with the executive and legislative branches of the Alaska government, the state judicial branch ensures the safety and optimum functioning of the state and its residents
In accordance with state law, judicial proceedings are recorded, documented and made available to interested and eligible members of the public. Alaska court records are available from the administrative office of all state courts and federal appellate courts within the state's jurisdiction.
The Alaska State Judiciary consists of two major categories of courts. These are the Appellate Courts and the Trial Courts. The Appellate Courts consist of the Alaska State Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The Trial Courts consist of the Alaska Superior Court and the District Courts.
The Alaska Trial Court
In the State of Alaska, most court cases originate from the Trial Courts. The District Courts hear and decide cases within its limited jurisdiction. History shows that they are the busiest among all the levels of courts in the State of Alaska. If the District Court's judgment is appealed, the appeal is sent to the Superior Court, which is the trial court of general jurisdiction. For criminal cases, appeals may go directly to the Court of Appeals from the District Court under the law's exceptions. There are about 23 District Court Judges throughout the four judicial districts in Alaska.
Superior Courts have the legal right to hear and decide all kinds of civil and criminal cases. However, it does not hear cases that may typically be heard and decided by the District Courts. Rather, it handles appeals from the District Courts when the parties do not find the District Court ruling satisfactory. Cases that are appealed from Superior Courts are decided by the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. A total of about 42 Superior Court Judges preside over the Superior Courts throughout the State of Alaska.
Above the Superior Court's jurisdiction is the Alaska State Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals has the jurisdiction to handle criminal case appeals from the District Courts. It also decides appeals such as merit and sentence appeals from the Superior Court. However, the Court of Appeals reserves the right to exercise its discretion in deciding which case to hear from the lower courts.
The highest level of court in Alaska is the State Supreme Court. It has the final jurisdiction over appeals from the lower courts and oversees the State Judiciary administration. Only the United States federal courts may be able to alter these decisions, all appeals from the state supreme court is heard by a federal court within or outside the state's jurisdiction. There are five justices of the Supreme Court, with one of the supreme court justices elected by others as the chief justice. Despite being the highest court in Alaska, the Supreme Court does not have a discretionary right over which appeals to handle.
What are Appeals and Court Limits?
An Appeal is a formal request made by a party to a court case for a review of the court's decision. Usually, appeals are made from a lower-level court to a higher-level court. The appellant seeks to persuade the higher court to reconsider the lower court's ruling for a possible reversal. An appeal is ideally sent via a written document called a "brief". The brief usually states the legal premises upon which the appealing party seeks the decision review.
The Alaska court system provides that cases appealed from the courts of limited jurisdiction are heard by the Superior Court. Cases appealed from the courts of general jurisdiction are then sent to the appellate courts. Generally, an appellate court does not hold fresh hearings for a case. Instead, it conducts a thorough review to ascertain whether the decisions appealed to it are correct according to the law's provisions. Appellate courts may decide to affirm, modify, or reverse the decision based on its findings and opinions.
What is the Alaska Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court of Alaska is the court at the apex of appellate jurisdiction in the State. It has the right to make the ultimate decision over court cases in the State of Alaska. The Supreme Court also provides administrative rules for all the courts in the State. It is headed by the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice may appoint an administrative director who supervises the administrative operations of the State Courts.
The Supreme Court also oversees the activities of the Alaska Bar Association. The association is responsible for admitting new attorneys into the State Judiciary. It also oversees the disciplinary processes for the attorneys under its authority. All these functions are carried out under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
Alaska Court of Appeals
The Alaska Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court of the State. It is presided over by a Chief Judge who has two associate judges. It reserves the right to hear criminal case appeals sent to it from the Superior Courts and, in some cases, the District courts.
Alaska Superior Courts
The Alaska Superior Court is also referred to as the court of general jurisdiction. It may decide appeals from the District Court over certain civil and criminal legal disputes. Cases that the Superior Court may hear include cases involving juvenile delinquency, a child in need of aid, and matters of domestic relations.
Alaska District Courts
The District Court of the State of Alaska hears and decides misdemeanors and violations of city ordinances. The Court has the right to hear civil and small claims cases. It may also hear emergency cases involving children, issue arrest and search warrants, and serve summonses.
How Do I Find My Case Number in Alaska?
A case number is a unique identifier of a court case. It is designed in such a way that it is distinct from all other case numbers. Case numbers are useful in the process of looking up or obtaining copies of court case information. Also, they readily provide some information about court cases, such as the case type, date/year of filing, etc.
To obtain the case number for a case in Alaska, the requester may use the Name Search option on the respective online portals. For case files from the trial courts, the user may gain access via the CourtView web portal. For case records from the appellate courts, interested persons may use the Appellate Courts Case Management System. Upon a successful search, the user may obtain the case number as part of the system's case information.
Does Alaska Hold Remote Court Trials?
Due to the increasing concern over the rate of spread of COVID-19, courts in Alaska are permitted to hold remote trials whenever applicable. The permission was reiterated in a special order released by the Supreme Court of Alaska’s Chief Justice on November 25, 2020.
According to the court order, in-person jury trials for civil, criminal, and grand proceedings have been suspended. However, parties may send a request to the presiding judge to permit remote jury trials. The request may be granted provided that it is by agreement between the parties. Such remote trials may be conducted via videoconferencing. The order stipulated that all other court proceedings may be held via teleconferencing or video conferencing.