The primary court in which cases are normally initiated is the District Court. There is a District Court for each of 26 judicial districts covering all of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. A district courthouse is located in the county seat of each county (and there are a few counties in which a district court is located in more than one town in the county). Each judicial districts is assigned at least one District Judge; each county has one or more Associate District Judges. The judicial districts are divided into nine administrative areas. Each administrative area has Special District Judges who handle uncontested matters and civil cases involving the recovery of less than $10,000. The District Court has jurisdiction over all civil and state criminal matters. In some more populous counties, the District Court may have divisions assigned to family, juvenile, small claims, drug, complex business, or other matters. Most cities and towns have municipal courts to handle traffic offenses or other purely municipal matters.
Appellate jurisdiction is divided between the Oklahoma Supreme Court for civil matters and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for criminal matters. The Supreme Court, consisting of nine justices, is the only constitutional court, and it has superintending control over the Court of Criminal Appeals, which has five judges; but the Supreme Court will defer to the Court of Criminal Appeals in any matter relating to an appeal from a verdict and judgment in a criminal case. All civil and criminal appeals are filed with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decides in each civil case whether it will retain jurisdiction to hear the appeal or assign the case to one of two divisions of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. Each division of the Court of Civil Appeals consists of two panels of three judges. The judges on the Court of Civil Appeals rotate panel assignments each year. Most civil appeals are assigned to the Court of Civil Appeals for initial disposition unless the appeal presents a question of first impression or involves a significant public policy issue that the Supreme Court chooses to address itself. Parties can ask the Supreme Court to retain jurisdiction but such requests are not often granted. After an initial decision by the Court of Civil Appeals, further review by the Supreme Court is by petition for certiorari, the grant of which is entirely discretionary with the Supreme Court.