Alaska Case Law
The Alaska state court system is divided into three levels. The highest court in Alaska is the Alaska Supreme Court, which consists of five judges. The Supreme Court must review appeals of decisions by lower courts in civil matters, as well as decisions by state administrative agencies. It may review appeals in criminal cases that involve a significant constitutional question or a matter of substantial public interest. Decisions by the Alaska Supreme Court are final unless the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal of a decision.
The middle level of the Alaska state court system is the Alaska Court of Appeals, which consists of three judges. The Court of Appeals reviews appeals only in criminal cases and related matters, such as probation, parole, bail, and habeas corpus. Appeals in civil cases go directly to the Supreme Court.
The lowest level of the Alaska state court system consists of the Alaska Superior Courts and the Alaska District Courts. The Superior Courts are trial courts with general jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. These courts also review appeals of decisions by District Courts. The jurisdiction of the District Courts is limited to certain types of cases. These include misdemeanors, domestic violence cases, violations of local ordinances, and civil matters with no more than $100,000 at issue. A criminal defendant can choose whether to appeal a decision by a District Court to a Superior Court or to the Court of Appeals.
Alaska also has about 40 Native American Tribal Courts. These courts issue decisions under tribal law, which is a separate body of law from Alaska state law.