Norfolk General District Court and Circuit Court

Types of Cases Heard in Each Court

How to Dress For a Court Appearance:

For court you should dress in a suit if possible, or as close as you can get. No tank tops, halter tops, strapless tops, mini skirts, exposed midriffs, baggy pants, flip flops or clothing with offensive language or messages should ever be worn.

The General District Courthouse is the lowest level of the Virginia court system and therefore hears civil cases involving money up to $25,000, in addition to preliminary felony cases and traffic and misdemeanor cases. The Circuit Courthouse on the other hand, is the trial court of general jurisdiction in Virginia, and has authority to try a wide variety of civil and criminal cases.

As a result the Circuit Court tries felonies, misdemeanors that were appealed from the General District Court, and civil cases that involve money sums of $25,000. The Circuit and General district courts share jurisdiction for civil cases with money sums from $4,500 to $25,000.

One other difference between the two types of courts are that cases heard in the General District court are always in front of a judge, while cases in the Circuit court are often tried in front of a jury.

Norfolk Court Locations and Parking

Both of these courthouses are located in the heart of downtown Norfolk, where there happens to be a variety of food options. The MacArthur Center nearby has many restaurants inside, including a Chili’s, Kincaids, and Firehouse Subs. Nearby there is also Tropical Smoothie Cafe on 265 Granby Street, Hell’s Kitchen on 124 Granby Street, and Granby Street Pizza on 235 Granby Street.

Court Tips:

  • Arrive early
  • Leave cell phones and other devices in car
  • Dress professionally
  • Be concise when your case is called

In terms of parking, there are a lot of parking lots where you can pay to park for up to $13 a day maximum. The closest garages are the York Street Garage, located at the corner of Boush Street and Bute Street at 215 W. York Street, and the MacArthur Center North and South Garages located on 500 City Hall Avenue with one entrance on Market Street, and another entrance on City Hall Avenue.

Inside these court houses are older and darker, but there are signs that direct you towards what area or floor your case will be heard on.

Prohibited Items

All personal electronic devices are prohibited, such as laptops, pagers, PDAs, cameras and tape recorders. All weapons are prohibited as well. No cell phones are allowed.

There are lockers available to store these items in the General District Court, but there are no lockers available in Circuit Court.

I see a lot of people coming to court with their cell phones in Circuit Court and then having to hide them in the bushes outside since the parking garages are a few blocks away, and they don’t want to risk missing their court time by running back to the car. Don’t bring your cell phone!

Other Things to Note

Arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled court time. Be quiet when you enter the courtroom. It is a very large courtroom, and people entering and exiting constantly can be really distracting. The dockets are packed tight, so be prepared to move to the bar quickly when your case is called. Be concise and enunciate.

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