Introduction to SystemsThe judicial system in theUnited States is actuallymade up of two differentcourt systems: the federalcourt system and thestate court systems.Each court system isresponsible for hearingcertain types of cases,however neither iscompletely independentof the other, and thesystems often interact.
The Structure of Federal Courts Systems U.S. Supreme Court U.S. Courts Of Appeal U.S. District Courts
U.S. District Courts There are 94 U.S. District Courts in the United States. Every state has at least one district court, and some large states, such as California, have as many as four. Each district court has between 2 and 28 judges U.S. District Courts hear both civil and criminal cases, where the judge determines issues of law, while the jury determines findings of fact.
U.S. Courts Of Appeal U.S. Courts Of AppealThere are 13 U.S. Courts These courts will With the exception ofof Appeal in the United examine the trial record criminal cases in which aStates. These courts are for only mistakes of law, defendant is found notdivided into 12 regional i.e. the FACTS that have guilty, any party who iscourts and sit in various already been determined dissatisfied with the cities throughout the by the U.S. District Court. judgment of a U.S.country. When hearing Therefore, the court District Court may appeal cases, these courts usually will neither to the U.S. Court of usually sit in panels of review the facts of the Appeal in his/her three judges. case nor take any geographical district. additional evidence.
U.S. Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States sits at the apex of the federal court system. It is made up of nine judges, known as justices, and is presided over by the Chief Justice. Each year, the Court accepts between 100 and 150 of the some7,000 cases it is asked Parties who are notto hear for argument. satisfied with theThe cases typically fit decision of a U.S. Courtwithin general criteria of Appeal or a state for oral arguments. supreme court can ask Four justices must the U.S. Supreme Courtagree to hear the case. to hear their case. The Court decides whether to accept such cases.
The Structure of State Courts Systems State Supreme Appellate Courts Courts Trial Courts
Trial Courts Trial Courts are the main trial courts in the state system. These involve both civil and criminal cases. One judge (often sitting with a jury) usually hears them. In such cases, the judge decides issues of LAW, while the jury decides issues of FACT (In other words, the judge deals with the rules of law, while the jury deals with evidence, witnesses, and lawyers to decide if the suspect is guilty or not).
Intermediate Appellate Courts Any party, who is not satisfied with the judgment of a state Trial Court, may appeal the matter to an appropriate Appellate Court. Such appeals are usually a These courts address matter of right (meaning the only alleged Many, but not all, court must hear them). procedural mistakesstates have Appellate and errors of LAW Courts between the made by the Trial Trial Courts and the Court. They willState Supreme Court. usually neither These courts usually review the FACTS ofsit in panels of two or the case, which have three judges. been established during the trial, nor Appellate accept additional evidence. Courts
State Supreme Courts Like the Appellate All states have some sort of Courts, appeals takenstate supreme courts. In states usually allege a with Appellate Courts, the mistake of LAW and State Supreme Courts usually NOT FACT.have discretionary review as to whether to accept a case or not. In states without These courts often sitAppellate Courts, appeals may in panels of three, usually be taken to the State State Supreme five, seven, or nine Supreme Court as a matter of Courts judges/justices.right (meaning the court must hear them). In addition, many State Supreme Courts have original jurisdiction in certain matters. For example, the highest courts in several states have original jurisdiction over controversies regarding elections and the reapportionment of legislative districts.
Jurisdictions of Federal Courts Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction because they can hear only two main types of cases:1. Diversity of Citizenship: Federal courts can have jurisdiction over a case of a civil nature in which parties are residents of different states and the amount in question exceeds the amount that is set by federal law (currently $75,000). The federal courts are often required to apply state law when dealing with these cases since the issues concern matters of state law. The fact that the parties are from different states and that the amount in question is high enough is what manages to get such cases into federal court.
2. Federal Questions:Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases that arise under the U.S. Bankruptcy Constitution, the laws of the United States, and the treaties made under the authority of the United States. These issues are the only advantage of the federal courts and include: Patent, copyright, Suits and between trademark states: Cases cases. in which two or more states are a party. Federal crimes: Crimes defined by or mentioned in the U.S. Constitution or those defined and/or punished by federal law. Such crimes include treason against the United States, piracy, counterfeiting, and crimes against the law of nations. However, most crimes are state matters.
Jurisdictions of State CourtsThe jurisdiction of the state courts extends to basically any type of case that does not fall within theexclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts. State courts are common-law courts. This means thatthey not only have the authority to apply or interpret the law, but they often have the authority tocreate law if it does not yet exist to solve a specific legal problem. Examples of cases within thejurisdiction of the state courts include the following: State criminal offenses: Crimes defined and/or punished Cases involving by the state constitution or Election issues: the state applicable state statute. Most constitution:crimes are state criminal offenses. The law They include offenses such as concerning voter Cases involving the murder, theft, breaking and registration, interpretation of a entering, and destruction of voting in general, state constitution. legislative property. reapportionment, etc. Contract law: Family: Agreements between The body of law dealing two or more parties with marriage, divorce, creating obligations adoption, child custody that are either and support, and enforceable or domestic-relations otherwise recognized issues. as law.
Joint Jurisdiction Between Federal & State Courts Federal Question: Diversity of Citizenship: Any state court may interpret In civil cases involving citizens the U.S. Constitution, federal of two or more states in which statute, treaty, etc., if the the dollar amount in question applicable Constitutional exceeds $75,000, a state court provision, statute, or treaty has may hear the case if the direct bearing on a case defendant in the case does not brought in state court under a ask to have the case removed state law. However, by to federal court. Furthermore, interpreting the U.S. if a civil case involves two or Constitution, federal statute, more citizens of different or treaty, the state is states but the amount in subjecting itself to federal question does not exceed review. This means that after a $75,000, the case must be State Supreme Court has acted heard by a state court. on a case, the U.S. Supreme Court may review it.