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The Courts

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    The Courts The Courts Presentation Transcript

    • The Court System and Jurisdiction
    • U.S. Court System
      • Both the federal and state court systems are triangular
        • At the bottom there are many trial courts
        • There are fewer appeals courts and one supreme court
        • At the federal level there are
          • 646 District Court Judges
          • 13 Circuit Courts of Appeal
          • One Supreme Court with nine justices
    • Trial Courts
        • Trial courts determine the facts and apply existing law to those facts
          • Juries are charged with making factual determinations , except when the parties waive their right to a jury, in which case
        • In general appellate courts will not hear appeals of jury verdicts unless there is evidence of jury tampering or some other procedural irregularity
    • Appellate Courts
        • Appellate courts determine whether legal errors were made at the trial court level
          • Most appeals are denied, as trial court decisions are affirmed
          • Supreme courts can overrule decisions of appellate courts
        • The U.S. Supreme Court is almost entirely an appellate court
          • The U.S. Supreme agrees to hear only a fraction of the appeals made to it
          • New York vs New Jersey
    • Appellate Courts
        • Main function of appellate courts is to review trial courts for possible errors of law
          • Possible errors of law include rulings the trial court on
            • Motions made by either party
            • Admission or non-admission of evidence
            • Instructions to juries
          • U.S. Courts of Appeals often hear appeals for decisions of administrative agencies such as the FTC, the PTO, and NLRB
        • Decisions of trial courts are only reversed when the errors made are judged material .
          • A mistake is material if it could have effected the outcome of the case.
    • U.S. Supreme Court
        • Mainly hears appeals from cases that either
          • Have constitutional implications
          • Resolve differences among the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
          • Have significant social implications and are considered ripe--appropriate for resolution
        • Appeals to the Supreme Court are based on writs of certiorari (4 of 9 must vote to hear case)
        • Issues majority, concurring and dissenting opinions
    • Specialized Courts
      • At both the federal and state levels there are specialized courts
        • At the federal level there are specialized courts of bankruptcy, tax court, military courts
        • At the state level there are specialized juvenile, probate, domestic relations courts
        • Specialized courts do not have jurisdiction to resolve disputes outside their subject matter.
    • Trial Courts
        • In the federal courts, trial courts are called district courts
        • In state courts, trial courts are often divided between
          • District courts for lesser civil cases and criminal misdemeanors, and
          • Superior courts which hear major civil cases and criminal cases involving felonies
    • State Courts
      • Unless a case in state courts involves federal law there are usually no appeals from state to federal court
        • Appeals from state supreme courts to federal court can take place when
          • It is a capital criminal case—it often involves allegations of violations of constitutional law
          • Claims are made by a party that state laws violate the Interstate Commerce Clause
          • Claims are made that state laws violate fundamental constitutional rights involving, for example, race, abortion, and due process.
    • Jurisdiction
      • Defendants in civil cases can file a motion to dismiss based on a claim that the court selected by the plaintiff for the lawsuit
        • Does not have jurisdiction over the defendant
          • Or the subject matter of the dispute
      • A court has jurisdiction if it has power to resolve the dispute.
        • Two factors in determining jurisdiction:
          • Subject matter and geography
    • Jurisdiction: Nomenclature
        • Trial courts have original jurisdiction
          • Obviously, appellate courts have appellate jurisdiction
        • In order to deny the defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, the trial court must have both :
          • Jurisdiction over the subject matter of the dispute and
          • Jurisdiction personally over the defendant
        • Obviously, a bankruptcy court does not subject matter jurisdiction to try a criminal case
          • Many trial courts have general jurisdiction to hear any case
    • Jurisdiction of State Courts: Over the Person
      • Assume the plaintiff files suit against the defendant in the plaintiff’s state:
        • Clearly the state trial court has jurisdiction over the def., if the def. is a resident of the plaintiff’s state
          • A state court can exercise jurisdiction if the person
            • Did business within the state, such as sign or perform a contract, or
            • Committed a tort within the state, such as get involved in a traffic accident
        • States typically pass “Long Arm” statutes that extend the jurisdiction of state courts as far as is constitutionally permissible.
    • Jurisdiction over the Person
        • Suppose the def. is a corporation or a business?
          • Jurisdiction depends on whether the out-of-state business satisfies the minimum contacts test:
            • The minimum contacts test is satisfied if the business owns property, rents office space, directs employees towards, or directs advertising toward the state
            • Without more, mail order companies are not subject to the jurisdiction of out-of-state courts
          • Conceptual test is whether the out-of-state company availed itself of the advantages of the state government?
            • If yes, then jurisdiction is fair and justified
    • Jurisdiction over the Person
      • For web sites,
        • mere accessibility does not give out-of-state courts jurisdiction,
          • but if the web site interacts with customers through email or telephone it does…
          • Obviously, even a small amount of interaction between web sites and in-state residents is going to subject the web site to out-of-state courts
        • Web sites can easily avoid exercise of jurisdiction by out-of-state courts simply by have a choice of law clause in their Terms of Service agreement, which the user “agrees to” by browsing the web site.
    • Jurisdiction: State Courts
        • In rem jurisdiction
          • If an out-of-state resident owns property within a state, that state’s courts have in rem jurisdiction over the property
        • Note further that the plaintiff always has the option of going to the defendant’s home state and suing him or her in that state,
          • If state courts in the pl.’s home state do not have jurisdiction
    • Jurisdiction: Federal Courts
        • A plaintiff can file a lawsuit in federal court if
          • Federal question jurisdiction takes place
            • The claim (or defense) involves federal law
            • E.g., the plaintiff the defendant violated the Clean Water Act, which is a federal statute.
          • Diversity
            • The parties are located in separate states and
            • The amount in dispute involves more than $75,000
        • If the case is tried in fed. court, procedural law is governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Proc.
    • Exclusive and Concurrent Jurisdiction
      • In many cases, plaintiff’s have a choice as to which court system (state or fed.) to file the claim because
        • Jurisdiction over the case is concurrent between federal and state courts
          • E.g., civil rights, securities, any claim based on diversity
        • In other cases, jurisdiction of fed. or state courts is exclusive:
          • Federal courts have exclusive juris. over patent cases, criminal cases and bankruptcy, to name just a few
          • State courts have exclusive juris. over domestic relations, juvenile court, in-state tort claims where diversity does not apply
    • Exclusive and Concurrent Jurisdiction
        • Plaintiffs can file a suit in state court based on a violation of a federal statute,
          • unless the statute contains language that provides for exclusive juris. of fed. courts.
        • Defendant’s can remove a case to fed. court, if
          • The plaintiff had a choice between fed. and state court and chooses to file in state court
          • Def. may choose to remove a case to fed. court if the def. is concerned that a state court may favor the pl.
    • Conflicts of Law
      • In some cases there is a genuine issue as to which state’s laws apply
        • Suppose a contract is signed in one state, but performed in another state?
        • In some cases the rules for determining choice of law are simple, i.e., where did the tort occur?
          • In other cases, the choice as to which state’s laws apply is complicated.
          • In contractual situations confusion can be avoided by having choice of law clauses in the contract, which is quite common
    • Venue
        • Venue is the physical location of where the trial will take place
          • In criminal cases, motions to change venue are sometimes granted based on pre-trial publicity
            • A motion to change venue based on pre-trial publicity could be granted in a civil case also
          • At the state level a to change venue is a motion to change the location of the trial within the same state, whereas the same motion at the federal level is a motion to change the state where the trial takes place.
            • Sometimes venue is changed if going to court is very inconvenient for the defendant or witnesses
              • Motion to change based on forum non conveniens
              • If the motion is granted, the trial will take place in another state or at the fed. level.
    • Standing to Sue: Justiciability
      • In order to get into court, the plaintiff must show
        • He or she has a real, current interest at stake
          • Examples, loss of freedom (possible incarceration), loss of property, loss of aesthetics if the person actually uses the park, loss of govt. benefits, loss of job etc.
      • In order to be justiciable the dispute must not be:
        • hypothetical (a dispute in the future),
        • moot (dispute already resolved), or
        • political (decisions that are within the discretion of Congress or the President).
      • Courts sometimes allow exceptions
    • Judges and Judicial Officials
      • Federal judges are appointed for life
        • Cannot be removed unless there is a showing of malfeasance—bribery, treason, other crimes
          • Congress cannot reduce the pay of a sitting judge
      • State judges
        • Some are elected and some appointed
      • Judicial immunity applies for most of what judges do, but judges could be censored or removed under state codes of ethics for judges.