● Each state has its own court system, and the federal court system exists at the national level. -Both have trials and appeals courts● Highest court Supreme COURT - Hears appeals from the other court systems. -Its the court of the final appeal
TRIAL COURTS● Listen to testimony● Decide the facts in disputed situations● Consider evidence -Provided by witnesses called to testify in the case● There are two parties in a trial. -Civil Trial: Plaintiff is the party bringing the legal action -Criminal Trial: the state or federal government initiates the case and serves as the Prosecutor +In both trials, the party responding to the plaintiff or prosecutor is the Defendant● The losing parting may be able to appeal to an appellate court after a decision is made.
● Trial system in the U.S ADVERSARIAL SYSTEM -Contest between opposite sides/adversaries. -Purpose: Both parties present their best arguments, show the weaknesses of the opposing party. Then the judge determines the truth.● INQUISITIONAL SYSTEM -Judges play a more active role, or rather take the lead role, since they present and comment on evidence, gather the witnesses, conduct searches etc. The adversarial process is sometimes criticized for its resemblance to a battle. Critics say the goal is to win so lawyers, acting as enemies, try not to present all the evidence for the sake of the case. Despite its drawbacks, the counterargument is that by approaching the facts from opposite perspectives more truth can be uncovered.
Judges: -Presides over the trial -Protect the right of those involved -Make sure attorneys follow the rules of evidence and trial procedure -(Nonjury trials) Determines the facts of the case and renders a judgement -(Jury trials) Instructs the jury as to the law involved in the case -(Criminal trials) In most states, they sentence individuals convicted of committing crimes ● Sixth Amendment- Guarantees the right to trial by jury in criminal cases. (Federal and State courts) ● Seventh Amendment- Guarantees a right to trial by jury in civil cases in federal courts.In civil cases, the defendant or the plaintiff may request a jury trial. Incriminal cases, the defendant decides if there will be a jury. But mostcases are never brought to trial. Instead, a PLEA BARGAIN, or pretrialagreement between the prosecutor and the defendant and his/her lawyer,disposes of the case without a trial.
Jury (When Jury trial is requested) : - Determine the facts and apply the law in a particular case -6 to 12 persons (federal criminal cases require 12) -Verdicts for criminal cases require unanimity Must be : - a U.s. citizen -able to speak and understand english -at least 18 years old -a resident of the state As citizens its our civic duty to serve on juries when called upon -Exceptions: members of the clergy, attorneys, physicians, police officers, firefighters, and those unable to due to mental/physical disability, convicted felons (without their civil rights)Prospective jurors go through a voir dire examination (lawyers determine anyprejudices/opinions regarding the case by asking questions.) the attorneys mayrequest the removal of any juror appearing incapable to render an impartialverdict (Removal for cause). BUt the attorney is allowed a limited number ofperemptory challenges, (juror may be removed without stating a cause).
APPEALS COURTS● One party presents arguments asking the court to review the decision of the trial court● There are no juries, witnesses, or new evidence presented. Only the lawyers appear before the judge to make legal arguments.● Only those who lost a trial claiming an error was made by the court can appeal (ex.:The judge makes a mistake as to the law applicable in the case or when the judge gives the wrong instructions to the jury to permit evidence that should not be allowed)● A precedent is set when an appeals court issues a written opinion or ruling● A panel of judges usually consists of 3 or more judges -9 justices hear cases argues before the Supreme Court.● The majority opinion states the decisions of the court, judges who disagree with this opinion may issue a separate document -Dissenting opinion- states the reason for disagreement -Concurring opinion- reasons different from those used to support the majority opinion.
● State Courts The United States has 94 districts courts and 13 circuit courts.● General jurisdiction -Can hear cases that deal with state law as well as federal.● All states have trials courts -Called superior, county, district, or municipal courts● Deal with specific types of legal issues -family, traffic, criminal, probate and small claims courts● Family or domestic relations courts hear actions involving divorce, separation and child custody● Probate court handle cases involving wills and claims against the estates of persons who die with or without a will● If you lose your case in the trial court you may be able to appeal to an intermediate court or directly to the states highest court
FEDERAL COURTS (U.S. DISTRICTCOURTS● Federal courts hear criminal and civil cases involving federal law.● There is a federal trial court in each district● Congress divided the U.S. into 94 federal judicial district● They have 2 judges, some have more than 20● They handle more than 300,000 cases per year● They handle about 1,000,000 bankruptcy petitions each year● Federal court judges are appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate.● Removal of federal judges requires that congress follow formal impeachment procedures