Honorable Jay C. Sheffield, Judge Presiding
Justice Court is the judicial branch of County government responsible for the processing of all criminal and traffic misdemeanor offenses, including Fish and Game violations that occur in Lincoln County. It is also the court where most people arrested for felony offenses will make their initial appearance and have their bail set.
Justice Court conducts Jury or Bench Trials in both criminal and civil cases.
Justice Court issues Search Warrants, Arrest Warrants and Orders of Protection.
Justice Court also provides an initial appearance to persons arrested on warrants from outside Lincoln County and to persons arrested for probation/parole violations.
Justice Court processes citations/arrests from;
- Lincoln County Sheriff's Office
- Montana Highway Patrol
- Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
- Motor Carrier Services of the Department of Transportation
- Lincoln County Animal Control
- State Department of Livestock
- State Gambling Control Division
- Lincoln County Attorney's Office
- And, in some cases, local Police Departments
Justice Court handles Civil Lawsuits not to exceed $12,000.00 and Small Claims actions up to $7,000.00.
Justice Court hears landlord/tenant disputes, local ordinances, forcible entry and unlawful detainer as well as certain issues involving juveniles.
Justice Court DOES NOT handle disputes involving false imprisonment, libel, slander, criminal conversation, malicious prosecution, determination of paternity, and abduction.
Justice court does not have jurisdiction over cases involving the title or possession of real estate.
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
- 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
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).