Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court is held in the District Courts with the same judges. The small claims court has exclusive jurisdiction over claims for $3,000 or less exclusive of interest and costs. You may or may not have an attorney in small claims court. This is similar to the Peoples Court on TV.
District Court has concurrent jurisdiction for claims that do not exceed $10,000, exclusive of interest and costs. Concurrent jurisdiction means that you can file the claim in either District Court or Circuit Court. District Court also has concurrent jurisdiction over unlawful detainer actions (those are actions which involve landlords removing tenants from their property).
Circuit Court has concurrent jurisdiction with District Court over claims between $3,000 and $10,000, and Circuit Court has exclusive jurisdiction over claims exceeding $10,000.
Some Differences between District and Circuit Courts
In district court, you do not get a jury for your case. The Judge decides the case. In circuit court, you can demand a jury and pay for the same, or if both parties agree, you can choose to have the judge decide your case. In District court, if you lose, you can pay a filing fee to Circuit Court and appeal your case "de novo". What does that mean? Whatever happened in the District Court case is does not matter, you try your case in Circuit Court "anew". It starts all over again. The time requirements for responding to matters is typically 14 days in District Court and 30 days in Circuit Court.
Federal Court governs matters which involve federal questions, i.e.: Constitutional issues and Federal laws. Federal Court can also be used when the two parties are from different States, i.e.: one from Alabama and one from Georgia. Those types of cases are called diversity cases (parties are from different states), and in those cases, the matter in controversy must exceed $75,000; otherwise, state courts have jurisdiction.