Alaska District Court

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Alaska District Courts
Nesbett courthouse in Anchorage, Alaska

The Alaska District Court is a trial court of limited jurisdiction in Alaska. It was created in 1959 and has twenty-three judges. Decisions of this district court can be appealed to the Alaska Superior Court or, in some cases, to the Alaska Court of Appeals. Taken together, the Alaska Superior Court and the Alaska District Court are where nearly all Alaskan civil and criminal lawsuits are filed, except for a rare case that may go directly to the Alaska Supreme Court.[1]


Judges in the Alaska District Court system:

  • Hear state misdemeanor cases, and cases regarding violations of city and borough ordinances
  • Issue summonses, arrest warrants and search warrants
  • Hear first appearances and preliminary hearings in felony cases
  • Record vital statistics (in some areas of the state)
  • Hear civil cases valued up to $100,000
  • Hear small claims case ($10,000 maximum)
  • Handle cases involving children on an emergency basis
  • Hear domestic violence cases[1]


There are four judicial districts in Alaska with 23 District Court judges between them.

District Area served
Alaska First District Haines, Juneau, Ketchikan Gateway, Prince of Wales-Outer Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon, Wrangell-Petersburg, Yakutat
Alaska Second District Nome, North Slope, Northwest Arctic
Alaska Third District Aleutians East, Aleutians West, Municipality of Anchorage, Bristol Bay, Dillingham, Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island, Lake and Peninsula, Matanuska-Susitna, Valdez-Cordova, Yakutat
Alaska Fourth District Bethel, Denali, Fairbanks North Star, Southeast Fairbanks, Wade-Hampton, Yukon-Koyukuk

District court judges

Appointment and retention

District court judges are appointed to office through the Alaska Judicial Council. Once they are on the court, they must run in a retention election at the first general election that is held more than two years after the appointment. Thereafter, they must run for retention every four years.

Voters are eligible to vote in a retention election for a district court judge if they are otherwise eligible to vote, and are registered in that judge's district.


To serve as a judge in the Alaska District Court system, these qualifications must be met:

  • 21 years of age
  • Citizen of the United States
  • Resident of Alaska for at least five years
  • One of these two standards must be met:
  • Be licensed to practice law in Alaska and have engaged in active practice of law for not less than three years immediately preceding appointment
  • Have served for at least seven years as a magistrate in the state and have graduated from an accredited law school[2]


Magistrate judges are allowed to preside over some district court cases. Magistrates are generally appointed in areas of the state where a full-time district court judge isn't needed. Magistrates can serve in more than one such location. Magistrates can also be appointed in metropolitan areas to handle routine matters, thus easing the overall work load of the state's district court judges.

Magistrate judges do not have to be attorneys, but they do need to be at least 21, a United States citizen and a citizen of Alaska for at least six months prior to their appointment.[3]

Magistrate judges are appointed by the presiding judge of the judicial district where they will serve, and they serve at the pleasure of the presiding judge.[4]

Appealing the court's decisions

Civil appeals from the district court go to the Alaska Superior Court in most cases.

At the option of the defendant, criminal appeals from the district court can be taken to the Alaska Superior Court or to the Alaska Court of Appeals. A defendant who first appeals to the Alaska Superior Court may later wants the Alaska Court of Appeals to review the superior court's decision. The Alaska Court of Appeals may take such appeals but is not required to do so.

See also

External links


AlaskaAlaska Supreme CourtAlaska Court of AppealsAlaska Superior CourtAlaska District CourtNative American Tribal CourtsUnited States District Court for the District of AlaskaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Ninth CircuitAlaska countiesAlaska judicial newsAlaska judicial electionsJudicial selection in AlaskaAlaskaTemplatewithoutBankruptcy.jpg