Greene County Records

A Guide to the Records of Greene County Clerks

Greene County Archives' Bulletin Number 3 June 1988


When Missouri was admitted to the Union as the 24th state on August 10, 1821, the area now comprising Greene County was in what was known as Wayne County. On January 23, 1829, Crawford County was formed out of Wayne, and the present limits of Greene County were within Crawford County.

Greene County was created by a special act of the State Legislature on January 2, 1833. It extended to the western and southern boundaries of the State to the Gasconade River on the east, and to the Osage River on the north. Greene County at that time comprised what is now all of the Counties of McDonald, Newton, Jasper, Barton, Dade, Lawrence, Barry, Stone, Christian, Greene and Webster, portions of Taney, Dallas, Polk, Cedar, Vernon, Laclede, Wright and Douglas counties. The present boundaries of Greene County were established in 1859.

In 1820, the first Missouri constitution placed the powers of the judicial system in a supreme court, chancery courts, circuit courts, and other courts that the legislature might establish. The Greene County circuit court has continued since the establishment of the county in 1833, while four other Courts that were established were later abolished. The state court system started with four circuits, each consisted of four to eight counties. The number of circuits began to grow in 1831 when a fifth circuit was established. There are now 44 circuits; Greene County is circuit number 31. The circuits of today consist of from one to five counties. The major change in the circuit court system occurred in 1978-1979 when it became the only judicial court at the county level.

The four courts in Greene County that have been abolished include the Common Pleas Court, Justices of the Peace, Criminal Court, and Magistrate Court. The Common Pleas Court was established in 1833; it had general and original jurisdiction over civil and criminal trials. It was abolished in 1979 by the "Court Reform and Revision Act."

The office of the justice of the peace was established in 1807 when Missouri was still a part of the Louisiana Territory. Each township had at least one justice. They were authorized to decide minor cases, commit persons to trial in a higher court, and to perform marriages, etc. Justices of the Peace continued to serve until the office was abolished in 1945.

In 1889, a criminal court was established in Greene County; it existed until 1909.

Magistrate courts were established in 1946. This new court system absorbed the judicial functions previously performed by the justices of the peace. The number of magistrate judges for a county depended on the county's population. Originally, Greene County had two magistrate judges. In 1971, a third judge was appointed. A major reform of the Missouri court system occurred in 1979 which abolished the magistrate courts and created the associate circuit court divisions within the circuit court System.

Greene County now has four circuit court divisions, one probate court division, and three associate circuit court divisions. Probate of wills and estates, and cases involving incompetency are heard by a judge of the probate division. The probate judge is a circuit judge. The associate circuit division handles both criminal and civil cases as well as traffic cases. The criminal cases handled by this court are misdemeanors and only preliminary hearings are held in felony cases in the associate court. If probable cause is established in a felony case, the case is transferred to the circuit division. The civil cases are primarily disputes between citizens such as divorce and small claims cases. The circuit court division handles felony cases; civil suits exceeding $5,000, equity cases, such as injunctions and domestic relations; probate cases if the county's population is over 65,000; cases involving unusual procedures, and cases reassigned from another division.

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