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Litigation in District and Superior Courts FAQs

1. What is the difference between district and superior courts in North Carolina?

The North Carolina system houses two trial court divisions: district court and superior court. In general, civil matters with an amount in controversy of less than $25,000 are tried in NC district court. Civil disputes in excess of $25,000 are generally tried in superior court. There are county courthouses in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties where the trial courts are housed.

2. Since I own my own corporation, may I represent my business in the district or superior court?

No. Established case law and statutory law provide that a corporation may not practice law in North Carolina. Accordingly, a corporation is well-advised to obtain an attorney should it desire to try a legal issue in North Carolina courts. While a non-lawyer may represent a corporation in small claims court, that option is not available should the case be appealed de novo to the district court.

3. How are federal courts organized?

The federal courts are organized into 94 district-level trial courts. The appeal then falls to one of 13 circuit courts of appeal. A very small number of appeals from circuit courts of appeal are then ruled upon by the United States Supreme Court. North Carolina federal trial courts are divided into three geographic district courts: eastern, middle and western. Appeal falls to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia.

4. When may I file a lawsuit in federal court?

In general, a case may be filed in federal court when it involves either a federal question (arising under a federal law) or a diversity of citizenship (between citizens of different states in cases exceeding $75,000). The specifics of federal question or diversity jurisdiction can be quite complicated, so an attorney should be consulted for a definitive answer.

5. What is a money judgment?

In a civil suit, a money judgment is a court order stating that the prevailing party is entitled to recover a specific amount of money from the adverse party. Judgments often come by way of default judgment proceedings, motions for judgment on the pleadings, summary judgment motions, and trial verdicts.

6. How do I collect my money once a trial court awards a judgment?

North Carolina statutes provide a process whereby the local sheriff is first involved in judgment collection by locating and selling certain assets of the debtor. Proceeds are applied toward the judgment balance. In the event the sheriff is unsuccessful in satisfying the judgment through a sale of assets, supplemental proceedings are available to a judgment creditor whereby they may inquire about the location and value of assets, as well as pursue a court-ordered sale or transfer. Fraudulent transfer statutes help to protect creditors from debtors who unfairly conceal assets by transferring them to third-party businesses or individuals. Judgment collection from the third party to whom the asset(s) were transferred involves a new lawsuit.


If you are involved in litigation in district or superior court, the qualified team at Hannah Sheridan & Cochran, LLP, lawyers in Raleigh, NC, are ready to assist you. Please contact us at 919-859-6840 to discuss your case.
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