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National News

Nine States Change Civil Jurisdiction Thresholds

June 14, 2024 posted by Steve Brownstein

When it comes to civil lawsuits, most states use two levels of court: a limited jurisdiction court that manages lower amounts in controversy and a general jurisdiction court that oversees cases involving higher amounts.

Where that value line gets drawn has an impact on parties, as limited jurisdiction courts tend to have less arduous discovery and other rules, and on courts, as caseloads change when limits shift.

Nine states have recently increased their jurisdiction thresholds, but these increases vary widely.

Alabama S.B. 297 of 2019 increased the civil jurisdiction for district courts from $10,000 to $20,000.

Colorado S.B. 56 of 2018 increased the civil jurisdiction for county courts from $15,000 to $25,000. According to the fiscal note filed with the bill, “overall, district court filings are expected to decrease by 4,734 . . . county court filings will increase by 3,535 and Denver County Court filings will increase by 1,199.”

Delaware H.B. 191 of 2019 increased the civil jurisdictional limit for the court of common pleas from $50,000 to $75,000. This was from the recommendation of the Jurisdiction Improvement Committee established by the Delaware Supreme Court Order of November 7, 2017.

Florida H.B. 337 of 2019 created a staggered threshold increase from $15,000 for county courts to $30,000 on January 1, 2020, and then to $50,000 on January 1, 2023.

Massachusetts increased its threshold in 2019 not by a legislative act but by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. Existing laws (MA ST 212 § 3 and MA ST 218 § 19) set the threshold for District and Boston Municipal Court as $25,000, “or an amount ordered from time to time by the Supreme Judicial Court.” In 2020 the court ordered the threshold raised from $25,000 to $50,000.

Nebraska’s law grants that state’s court of last resort a similar power, setting the jurisdiction of county courts at $45,000 (through June 30, 2005) but granting the state’s supreme court the power to adjust the jurisdiction every 5 years based on the CPI index. The result was increases in 2010, 2015, and most recently in 2020 to a new threshold of $57,000.

New York has a relatively complex system of civil courts, including one dedicated to cases heard within the five counties of New York City whose jurisdiction is set by the state’s constitution. The state legislature put a constitutional amendment (A.B. 7714 of 2020) before New York voters. In November 2021 voters approved Proposal 5, which increased the New York City Civil Court’s jurisdiction from $25,000 to $50,000. SB 9377 of 2022 was then adopted to codify the change in statute.

Texas S.B. 2342 of 2019 increased the justice court jurisdiction from $10,000 to $20,000.

Utah H.B. 107 of 2022 adopted a staggered threshold similar to Florida from $11,000 to $15,000 in 2022 to $20,000 in 2025 and $25,000 in 2030.


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