The Eaton County judicial system consists of the Circuit Court, the Probate Court, and the District Court.
Together they form a judicial team responsible for providing an equal and fair system of justice to citizens of Eaton County.
The Circuit Court is a trial court of general jurisdiction established by the Michigan Constitution of 1908. At one time the Circuit consisted of Eaton, Barry and Calhoun Counties and later Barry and Eaton Counties. in 1991, the Circuit Court was split and Eaton County became a separate circuit, the 56th Circuit Court.
The Circuit Court has two judges. Hon. Janice K. Cunningham and Hon. Jeffrey L. Sauter are the present Circuit Court Judges. The Court has original jurisdiction over: All Civil Cases over $25,000; All criminal felonies and high court misdemeanors; All domestic relations cases; Appellate review of District and some state administrative agencies; All cases involving equitable remedies; All juvenile matters previously with the Probate Court
In 1998 the Eaton County Family Division of the Circuit Court was created. The Family Division now has jurisdiction over all domestic cases and juvenile matters under the concept of "One Judge-One Family." Probate Judge Thomas Byerley is assigned to the Family Division and with the two circuit judges, hears all cases involving families. Judge Thomas Byerley is also the Chief Judge of the Probate, Circuit, and District Courts.
The Michigan Constitution of 1850 created a Probate Court in each county of the state of Michigan. The Court has one judge, Judge Thomas Byerley, who also sits by assignment in the Family Division. All juvenile matters and adoptions have been transferred to the Family Division. The Probate Court continues to have jurisdiction over wills and estates, guardianships and mental health commitment petitions.
The District Court was created by statute in 1989. The Court consists of two judges, Judge Julie Reincke and Judge Harvey Hoffman. District Court has jurisdiction over: Civil cases up to $25,000; Misdemeanors punishable by one year in jail; felony arraignments and preliminary examinations; Landlord-tenant cases; Traffic cases.