The Court of Common Pleas was established in 1982 to handle “common” civil and criminal cases. It has jurisdiction to hear civil cases where the amount claimed or in dispute is $10,000 or less. It does not, however, adjudicate cases involving land interests, regardless of the amount claimed or in dispute. (Land cases are heard in the Land Court—See previous section). The Court of Common Pleas also hears all divorce and child support cases, regardless of the amount in controversy. Generally, the civil cases that come before the Court include name changes, family law matters, and simple estate settlement proceedings. The Court also hears small claims, where the amount claimed is $3,000 or less, in less formal hearings. The Court of Common Pleas may also adjudicate criminal cases. Prior to July of 2017, criminal cases were assigned to the Court of Common Pleas by the Chief Justice. Since the separation of the justices from the trial division and the appellate division, rules of criminal procedures were amended and now cases involving minor offenses defined by statute as misdemeanor, petty misdemeanor, or violations are filed and tried in the first instance in the Court of Common Pleas. Appeals from cases adjudicated by the Court of Common Pleas are filed directly with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has also designated the Court of Common Pleas to handle civil domestic abuse cases bought under the Family Protection Act (“FPA”), which was enacted in November 2012.To meet the requirements of the FPA’s mandates, the Court has created forms and protocols to assure that the Court is always available to assist persons seeking orders of protection, both during the Court’s normal operating hours and during after-hours, if victims of abuse needs immediate protection. The Court is also collaborating with other agencies, including the Bureau of Public Safety, the Attorney General’s Office, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs, to successfully implement the FPA’s mandates.