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Law of England and Wales

This article is part of the series:
Courts of England and Wales

A county court is a court based in or with a jurisdiction covering one or more counties, which are administrative divisions (subnational entities) within a country.


England and Wales

The County Court is the main trial court of the civil justice system in England and Wales. There are 216 county courts, which deal with the majority of civil cases, as well as some family and bankruptcy hearings.[1]

The government administrative agency for the courts in England and Wales is Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS), an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. The governing statute is the County Courts Act 1984 and procedure is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (CPR), which are common to all English civil law courts.

The County Court system in its present form has existed since 1847, when the County Courts Act 1846 was brought into force. The County Courts generally hear matters with a financial value of £50,000 or under (US$75,000 and 55,000). The present system is entirely statutory in origin and should not be confused with the medieval system of county courts held by the High Sheriff of each county.

Crown Court and County Court in Oxford.

County Court matters can be lodged at a court in person, by post or via the internet in some cases through the County Court Bulk Centre. Cases are normally heard at the court having jurisdiction over the area where the defendant lives. Most matters are decided by a District Judge or Circuit Judge sitting alone. Civil matters in England (with minor exceptions, e.g. in some actions against the police) do not have juries. Judges in the County Courts are either former barristers or solicitors, whereas in the High Courts they are more likely to have formerly been a barrister.

Civil claims with an amount in controversy under £5,000 are dealt with in the County Court under the Small Claims Track (sometimes known to the lay public as "Small Claims Court," although it is not a separate court). Claims between £5,000 and £25,000 (£15,000 for cases started before April 2009) that are capable of being tried within one day are allocated to the "Fast Track" and claims over £25,000 (£15,000 for cases started before April 2009) to the "Multi Track." These 'tracks' are labels for the use of the court system - the actual cases will be heard in the County Court or the High Court depending on their value. For personal injury, defamation, and some landlord-tenant dispute cases the thresholds for each track have different values.

Appeals are to a higher judge (Circuit Judge hears District Judge appeals), the High Court of Justice or to the Court of Appeal.

In debt cases, the aim of a plaintiff taking County Court action against a Defendant is to secure a County Court Judgment. This is a legal order to pay the full amount of the debt. Judgments can be enforced at the request of the plaintiff in a number of ways, including requesting the Court Bailiffs to seize goods, the proceeds of any sale being used to pay the debt, or an Attachment of Earnings Order, where the defendant's employer is ordered to make deductions from the gross wages to pay the plaintiff.

County Court Judgments are recorded in the Registry of Judgments, Orders and Fines (England and Wales)[1] and in the defendant's credit records held by credit reference agencies. This information is used in consumer credit scores, making it difficult or more expensive for the defendant to obtain credit.


County Court is the name given to the intermediate court in some Australian states. For example, the County Court of Victoria). They hear indictable (serious) criminal offences excluding treason, murder and manslaughter. Their civil jurisdiction is also intermediate, typically being for civil disputes where the amount claimed is greater than a few tens of thousands of dollars but less than a few hundreds of thousands of dollars. The limits vary between States. In some States the same level of Court is called a District Court. Below them are the Magistrates' (or Local) Courts. Above them are the State Supreme Courts. Some States adopt the two-tier appellate system, with the magistrates courts below and the Supreme Courts above.

United States

Many states have a county court, which may be purely administrative (such as in Missouri) or may have jurisdiction over criminal cases such as felonies (such as in New York).

In those states with an administrative county court, the body acts as the executive agency for the local government. For example, Harry S Truman was county judge of Jackson County, Missouri in the 1930s, an executive position rather than a judicial post.

In the states that have a judicial county court, such as New York, it generally handles trials for felonies, as well as appeals of misdemeanors from local courts and some small claims cases. It is a court of original jurisdiction, and thus handles mostly trials of accused felons. The New York County Court "is established in each county outside New York City. It is authorized to handle the prosecution of all crimes committed within the County. The County Court also has limited jurisdiction in civil cases ...."[2] More specifically, the New York County Court is:

authorized to handle the prosecution of all crimes committed within the county. It has exclusive authority to handle trials in felony matters and shares authority with the local city, town and village courts to handle trials in misdemeanor cases (offenses punishable by less than one year in prison) and other minor offenses and violations. The County Court also has limited authority to hear civil cases involving monetary awards of $25,000 or less. Although the County Court is primarily a trial court, in the Third and Fourth Departments it also has appellate jurisdiction over cases originating in City, Town and Village Courts.
New York State Court System (emphasis and internal links added)[3]

In New York City, the New York City Criminal Court handles such jurisdiction.[4]


See also



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