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  • 1. Chapter 6 The Court SystemChapter OutlineI. Foundation and Structure of the Judicial System Dual Court System Civil Versus Criminal LawII. The Federal Court System Overview of the Federal Court System United States Courts of Appeals The United States Supreme CourtIII. Characteristics of the State Court System Courts of Limited Jurisdiction Courts of General Jurisdiction Appellate Courts Courts of Last ResortLearning ObjectivesAfter completion of this chapter, students should be able to: 1. Describe the historical foundations of our nation’s court system. 2. Explain what is meant by the term ‘dual structure’ court system. 3. Explain the differences between criminal and civil law. 4. Describe the role and responsibilities of each level within the federal court system.
  • 2. 5. Describe how state level courts are generally organized.Key TermsAppellate courts (p. 102) state courts that have the authority to review the proceedings andverdicts of general trial courts for judicial errors and other significant issuesArticle 3, Section 2 (p. 94) the part of the U.S. Constitution that defines the jurisdiction of thefederal courtsBrief (p. 100) a written statement submitted by an appellant’s attorneys that states the substantialconstitutional or federal issue that they believe the court should addressCertiorari power (p. 100) the authority of the Supreme Court, based on agreement by four of itsmembers that a case might raise significant constitutional or federal issues, to select a case forreviewCircuit court (p. 98) the geographical jurisdiction of a federal appeals courtCivil law (p. 95) also called private law, the body of law concerned with the definition,regulation, and enforcement of rights in noncriminal cases in which both the person who has theright and the person who has the obligation are private individuals between a suspect and a crimeCourt of last resort (p. 102) a state court of final appeals that reviews lower court decisions andwhose decisions can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme CourtCourts of limited jurisdiction (p. 102) state courts of original jurisdiction that are not courts ofrecord (e.g., traffic courts, municipal courts, or county courts)Courts of record (p. 102) courts in which trial proceedings are transcribedDual court system (p. 94) the political division of jurisdiction into two separate systems ofcourts: federal and state; in this system, federal courts have limited jurisdiction over state courtsEleventh Amendment (p. 94) a provision that prohibits a citizen from one state from suing thegovernment of another state in federal courtGeneral trial courts (p. 102) state courts of original jurisdiction that hear all kinds of criminalcasesJudicial review (p. 96) the power of the U.S. Supreme Court to review legislation for thepurpose of deciding the constitutionality of the lawJurisprudence (p. 94) a philosophy or body of written law used to settle disputes
  • 3. Landmark cases (p. 99) U.S. Supreme Court cases that mark significant changes in theinterpretation of the ConstitutionOriginal jurisdiction (p. 97) the concept that juvenile court is the only court that has authorityover juveniles, so they cannot be tried, for any offense, by a criminal court unless the juvenilecourt grants its permission for the accused juvenile to be waived to criminal courtPer curiam opinion (p. 101) a case that is disposed of by the U.S. Supreme Court without a fullwritten opinionPlaintiff (p. 95) the party who files a civil lawsuit against the party who is alleged to have doneharm (the defendant)Remanded (p. 101) after the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of a decision of a lower court, thereturn of the case to the court of original jurisdiction with instructions to correct the judicial errorTenth Amendment (p. 94) a provision that powers not specifically delegated to the federalgovernment are reserved for the statesTort (p. 95) a private wrong that causes physical harm to anotherU.S. courts of appeals (p. 96) the third tier of the federal court system where decisions of lowercourts can be appealed for review for significant judicial error that may have affected the verdictU.S. district courts (p. 96) trial courts of the federal systemU.S. magistrate courts (p. 96) federal lower courts with powers limited to trying lessermisdemeanors, setting bail, and assisting district courts in various legal mattersU.S. Supreme Court (p. 99) the highest court in the U.S. judiciary system, whose rulings on theconstitutionality of laws, due process rights, and rules of evidence are binding on all federal andstate courtsChapter Summary The United States is considered a dual court system, consisting of a federal court system anda parallel state court system in each state. In the judicial hierarchy, U.S. Supreme Court hascertiorari power over all other state and federal courts. Aside from criminal cases, courts alsohear civil cases. The most significant difference here is that the burden of proof in a civil case isbased on a preponderance of the evidence, whereas the criminal trial requires proof beyond areasonable doubt. The greater amount of court time is taken up by civil cases. The federal court system is a four-tier, magistrate courts, district courts, courts of appeals,and the Supreme Court. The federal courts are divided into thirteen geographical circuits. Casesare initially tried in magistrate court for misdemeanors, and felony trials of original jurisdiction
  • 4. take place in the U.S. District courts. The U.S. Court of Appeals review cases for judicial error.Cases cannot be appealed on the basis of a claim of innocence, but rather upon judicial error. The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the American judicial system. This body canissue landmark decisions that mark significant changes to the interpretation of the U.S.Constitution. Under the Tenth Amendment, each state has the right to organize its own judicialsystem. Most states have a four-tier organizational structures that mirrors the federal judiciary.Media to ExploreGo to www.courttv.com for information on current and famous trials, both criminal and civil.See www.uscourts.gov for a wealth of information on the various U.S. federal courts, as well asuseful links and employment opportunities.For information on the U.S. Supreme Court see www.supremecourtus.gov.See www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/sco98.htm to access a document that describes each of thestate court systems. The document is a 1998 publication but provides a good overview of thevarious state court systems in a single source.Go to www.findlaw.com to look up landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases.