Circuit Courts Handle Civil Cases

A civil case is a dispute between two or more parties that involves a monetary claim. Circuit Courts also hear more serious criminal cases called felonies and share jurisdiction with general district courts for civil claims under $25,000.

Having an attorney with litigation experience can help you with the litigation process. Contact us to learn more about how we could help you with your civil case.

Circuit Court

The Circuit Court has jurisdiction over civil cases in Virginia with claims of more than $4,500, as well as all criminal cases including felony preliminary hearings and misdemeanor trials. It also hears appeals from General District Court, where cases are re-tried de novo (meaning they start over as completely new cases).

In criminal cases, the judge must conduct a preliminary hearing to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to warrant holding the accused for trial. A grand jury is convened at each term of the court to consider indictments prepared by the Commonwealth’s Attorney and to determine if there is probable cause to believe that the accused committed a crime and should stand trial.

In civil cases, Virginia law requires “fact pleading,” meaning that parties must state all of the facts upon which their claim is based. Defendants must also state a “prayer for relief” which specifies the amount of damages sought. Continuance requests must be in writing and signed by counsel or pro se parties.

General District Court

In addition to handling traffic cases, General District Courts try criminal misdemeanor offenses and conduct preliminary hearings in felony cases. They also hear civil claims involving amounts in controversy of up to $25,000. There is a General District Court located in every city and county in Virginia.

Civil cases heard in GDCs are relatively informal and do not require a formal response or pleadings to be filed by either the plaintiff or defendant. However, a plaintiff must provide the defendant with a “civil warrant” that must contain several items of information.

Appeals from GDCs are heard in Circuit Court, where the appellant is entitled to a jury trial unless they affirmatively waive that right. Appeals from other lower courts are heard by the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court hears appeals of decisions from the Court of Appeals and from certain state agencies. It also handles certain disciplinary matters regarding attorneys. It is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Court of Appeals

Until recently, civil litigants in Virginia were not accorded an appeal as a matter of right. With the passage of new legislation, however, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals will now be able to issue a binding decision in most civil cases. Parties that are dissatisfied with the result may petition for en banc rehearing or appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

In addition to appellate jurisdiction, the Court of Appeals also has original jurisdiction over writs of habeas corpus, mandamus and prohibition, as well as a limited number of writs relating to criminal cases (except death penalty), family law, traffic infractions and decisions of administrative agencies and the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. It is very rare for a trial court judgment to be overturned on appeal.

General district court case records are available online through the Virginia Judiciary System website. Attorneys can also access the court case information system through a subscription.


The Virginia Judiciary Electronic Filing System (VJEFS) is a system that allows members of the Virginia State Bar and their designated staff to electronically file civil cases in circuit court, track case status online, receive event notifications via email, instantly calculate fees and pay fees online using a credit card. A completed VJEFS application and a PIN are required to use the system.

Administrators are responsible for managing all users within their organization. Once logged in, the Administrator can view and edit all data fields except for the authorizing party information. To access this, the administrator must click on the link in the registration email that was sent to them from the circuit clerk’s office.

The system also provides online access to a statewide search of criminal and traffic case information in general district courts and select circuit courts. This information may be searched by name, case number or hearing date. Appeals from these cases are heard by the Court of Appeals of Virginia.






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