Petty courts are known by various names: city or municipal courts, mayor's courts, magistrate's courts, or justice of the peace courts. They occupy the lowest level of courts and are courts of limited jurisdiction. Their jurisdiction is most often limited by subject matter and by geography. These courts may vary significantly in organization and practice from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Petty courts have been used as local arbiters of justice in the United States since colonial times. They are deeply rooted in the local context from which they emerged, and each ...

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