A court system is created to determine the innocent and the guilty when a conflict arises. In many cases it is convicting a criminal for a crime that has been committed. The system entitles everyone to a fair trial no matter what the case and in each trial it is the team that is prosecuting that most prove that if the accused is guilty. Not the accused having to prove their innocence. The victim in most cases looks to see that justice is served to the criminal. The accused looks to try and get another chance in life and to make the court believe that they can change.
In the United States criminal justice system, there are two main court systems, the state and federal court system. Within these two systems, there are several levels of courts. The Federal Courts The federal court system has three levels: the District Court, the Circuit Court, and the Supreme Court. Federal District Courts: The lowest level of federal courts, where lawsuits are taken the first time and trials are held, is called the District Court level. District Courts hear every type of federal case, whether it is a civil or criminal case.
Each district can have more judges, and it covers either the whole state or a part of it. There are two groups of district court judges, “regular service” and “senior status. ” They have the same power and their jobs are secured for their entire lives (as stipulated under Article III Section I of the U. S. Constitution). The only difference is that senior judges, because they were on the bench for at least ten years they can take lighter caseloads and may choose what types of cases they hear. District Court judges are often assisted by Magistrate Judges. Magistrates are not judges that have their place secured.
But, they are auxiliary officers (appointed under Article I of the Constitution) who handle certain kinds of tasks sent by District Judges. Magistrates can take pleas of “not guilty” in felony criminal charges; they also frequently handle discovery disputes, misdemeanor trials, settlement negotiations, and hearings to calculate damages. Their orders can be appealed to the District Judge who initially had the case. Besides the District Courts, there are a few trial level federal courts with limited subject-matter jurisdiction, among these are the Court of Claims and the Court of International Trade.
Federal Appeals Courts: The next level of federal courts is the Circuit Courts of Appeal. These courts hear appeals of decisions from the District Court in their geographical region. Like District Court Judges, Circuit Judges have their jobs secured for their entire lives. Almost all District Court orders can be appealed to the Circuit Court although, with the exception of a few specific types of orders, like the ones granting or denying preliminary injunctions, the majority of orders cannot be appealed right away.
Instead, parties have to wait for the case to be closed in the District Court, and afterwards raise all the appeals at a single time. Circuit Court Judges sit in random panels of three judges for each case, unlike District Court Judges, who sit alone for their cases. “Sitting by designation” is the process when, on occasion, the Chief Judge of a Circuit invites a District Court Judge or a judge from another circuit, to temporarily sit on a panel of 3 judges to hear one or more appeals. When sitting by designation, a District Court Judge may not review his own decisions that he made earlier.
The decisions of the Circuit Court are connected to the district courts within that circuit. This develops the uniformity of law in each circuit, even though the circuits might disagree strongly on points of law. The Supreme Court: The highest level of federal courts is the United States Supreme Court. The Court hears appeals from the Circuits Courts, from the highest courts of each state, only if a federal issue is involved, or very rarely, from a District Court decision. The Court sometimes becomes a trial court for some categories of cases mentioned in the constitution, like lawsuits between states.
Even though it is primarily an appeal court it is not obligated to hear any given case, the Justices vote if they should allow a case to be heard in the Supreme Court> Traditionally, 4 votes in favor is enough to qualify the case for a hearing. The majority of cases are declined by the Court for an appeal. If the case is denied a hearing, is should not be taken as an indicator of the Court’s views on the fact that the case is worth an appeal. As harsh as it may sound, it should be taken into consideration the fact that the Court decides only 100-150 cases each Term, out of the 6000 requests for hearings annually.
The Supreme Court is the final authority of law in the United States. As a result, it is often used to resolve conflicts between the Circuits, for example, in interpreting federal statutes. Hearings are more likely to be granted when such issues are involved. Currently there are 9 Justices, even though the number has varied before the 20th century. Supreme Court Justices must be confirmed by majority vote in the Senate, just like District and Circuit Court judges, before taking office. The highest ranked Justice is the Chief Justice of the United States.
The Chief Justice, who must be confirmed in that position even if he is already an Associate Justice when he is nominated, has special administrative and ceremonial functions. In addition, he always has the power to select who will write the decision for the side to which the Chief Justice votes in a case. When the Chief Justice votes as the majority, he can write the opinion of the Court, or can assign another Justice on the same side to do it. At retirement, a Justice can continue to work actively as a judge, but not at the Supreme Court.
Often, Retired Justices are invited to sit on Circuit Court panels. The State Courts The general workplace of a State Court system is the trial court. This is the lowest level of State Court and is usually the place where a case or lawsuit originates. It can be a court of general jurisdiction, like a circuit or superior court, or it may be a court of special or limited jurisdiction, such as a probate, juvenile, traffic, or family court. Some states handle small cases in separate courts, while others handle cases like these in special divisions of the general trial courts.
This is also true for probate and juvenile matters. Family Courts hear cases involving mostly custody and child support, neglect and abuse cases, and, sometimes, juvenile crime or truancy. Most of the family courts do not deal with divorces, which are generally handled by the courts of general jurisdiction. Traffic Courts deal with civil infractions and violations concerning motor vehicles, petitions for reinstatement of driving privileges, and other matters related to traffic. Some can handle minor criminal offenses related to motor vehicle violations.
Most traffic courts do not handle automobile accident cases, as between the parties involved in an accident Small Claims Courts deal with all civil matters where the amount of money in the case does not exceed a certain amount which is the jurisdictional limit for that court. If someone seeks damages in an amount higher than the jurisdictional limit of the Small Claims Court, the person must either give up his right to the exceeding amount or re-file the case in a court with higher jurisdiction.
The maximum jurisdictional limit of Small Claims Courts varies greatly from state to state but most of the times ranging from $3000 to $7500. Juvenile Courts deal with truancy and criminal offenses from minors. The maximum age of the minor ranges from state to state but generally it is either 16 or 18 years. Older juveniles who have committed serious crimes can be sent to a court of general jurisdiction to determine whether they should be tried as adults. States can have separate courts for criminal and civil matters.
Most of the times, a trial court of general jurisdiction will deal with both, but often on separate dockets. Many Local or District Courts will have limited jurisdiction for criminal matters. In these circumstances, a person charged with a felony can be sued in the District Court and then sent to the next level court, which has proper jurisdiction, for criminal trial. This varies depending on each state. Every state has its own system to deal with appeals from the trial courts.
Most states have a three level court system where there are intermediate courts of appeal that review jury verdicts or the opinions of trial court judges on a limited basis and under strict criteria. These courts of appeal can or cannot be distinguished by separate buildings or courthouses. Most of the times a court of appeal is in reality a panel of justices who only come to hear and decide cases at the level of appeal. After a state’s highest court the only remaining appeal is to the U. S. Supreme Court.
However, the Supreme Court doesn’t take every matter from the state supreme courts, and only deals with matters in very limited circumstances for example, where a state’s highest court has ruled that a federal statute or treaty is invalid or unconstitutional, or where the highest courts of two or more states have ruled differently on federal matters. When a state’s highest court has decided a matter that involves both federal and state problems, the U. S. Supreme Court will refuse to deal with the matter if the nonfederal question is decisive in the case.