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How do North Dakota Courts work?

The Supreme Court serves as the highest legal power in the state of North Dakota. It resides over any decision made by the Court of Appeals, and can weigh in on important debates, conflicts, and precedents surrounding law. This ability to review decisions is also held by the Court of Appeals itself, as it can review the decisions made by lesser courts when one party appeals a decision made. These lower courts are made up of the 53 superior or trial courts across the state’s 53 counties. Other tiers of court include the District court, the Municipal court, the Juvenile court, and the Domestic Violence court.

Civil Cases and Small Claims

Court records in the state of North Dakota are split into civil matters and small claims matters, and there are a variety of differences between the two categories. For instance, civil court deals with cases in which the petitioner is seeking $200,000 or more, of which there are close to 175,000 per year across the state. However, civil court can also deal with non-monetary issues, such as disputes over name changes, restraining orders, and property. On the other hand, small claims court deals with petitioners looking for $5,000 or under. The court is not represented by counsel and there are close to 150,000 cases each year across North Dakota. These cases can range from disputes over deposits and loans, to warranties, repairs, and much more. The small claims court also has the power to order a defendant into an action, such as paying back a fee.

Appeals and court limits

There are also a number of key differences between the appeals process in small claims and civil matters, as well as what is allowed in each court. For example, only the sued party, or defendant, in a small claims case can appeal the ultimate decision made. On the other hand, in civil court, either party can appeal the final decision. In civil court, a person may hire a lawyer to both represent them and file papers on their behalf, while in small claims court, neither of these things are allowed. Pretrial discovery is allowed in civil cases, but not in small claims matters. Small claims cases have a filing fee of between $30 and $100, with each party then given between 30 and 70 days to complete their respective cases. On the other hand, civil cases have a filing fee of between $180 and $320, and parties are then given up to 120 days to complete their cases.

Why are court records public?

The North Dakota Open Records Statute was passed back in 1983, with the latest amendment coming in 1988. This statute ensured that all residents in North Dakota could access all public records at will. All records kept by both the state and local government are available to be accessed and copied by all members of the public. This promotes a sense of transparency and also safeguards government accountability in the state. All records are open to be viewed unless closed by statute.

To access files:


North Dakota Supreme Court
600 E Boulevard Ave
Bismarck, ND 58505-0530
Office of the Clerk
Phone: (701) 328-2221


North Dakota Court Structure
North Dakota State Archives

State Archives

Contact: (701) 419-1344

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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.

North Dakota

North Dakota’s Richland County Courthouse was first built in 1912.

  • The state of North Dakota has 4 different types of courts in their state court system. These are the North Dakota Supreme Court, the Temporary Court of Appeals, the District Courts, and the Municipal Courts.
  • The North Dakota Supreme Court is based in Bismarck, and was founded in 1889. There are 5 judicial positions, each of whom serve 10 year terms. The chief justice is elected every 5 years by supreme court justices and district court judges.
  • The Supreme Court in North Dakota is authorized to create a temporary court of appeals when needed.
  • There are 51 judges in district court system in North Dakota. They are divided into eight different districts in the state.