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HPU CRJ 3200 - The Structure of Courts in the United States

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Scott Ingram

on 6 January 2014

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Transcript of HPU CRJ 3200 - The Structure of Courts in the United States

The Structure of Courts in the United States
Can be thought of like a pyramid....
There are many levels
As we go up....there are fewer courts
This Prezi will describe each level.
Two Preliminary Matters....
1) Sovereignty
2) Jurisdiction
*This is the term political science uses when it talks about government power.
Theoretically, in the US, each state is sovereign.
They have given SOME of their sovereignty to the United States government.
Each state has its own court system because each state is sovereign over its own territory.
The federal government ALSO has sovereignty over state territory and thus has its own courts.
For example.....
*has a STATE COURT in every county
It also has....
Three federal judicial districts
Although each state has its own court system and may call their courts by different names, the overall structure is the same in every state AND in the federal system.
Jurisdiction means the authority to hear a case.
*Two important types....
1) General vs Limited
2) Original vs Appellate
General Jurisdiction:
The Court has authority to hear all types of cases.
Limited Jurisdiction:
The Court has authority to hear ONLY certain types of cases.
Examples of Limited Jurisdiction Courts:
Supreme Court
Courts of Appeal
Trial Courts
-Only One
-Has final say on the outcome of cases
-Hears only a small number of cases
General Pyramid Structure of the Court
-Multiple courts covering regions of the state
-Will hear the initial appeal in cases
-In MOST appealed cases, they have the final word
-Multiple courts = usually one per county or every 2 or 3 counties
-All cases begin and MOST end here
-This is the court you see on television and in the movies!
Trial Courts
1) Courts of general and original jurisdiction
2) Presided over by a single judge
3) Judge will make initial determinations of law, subject to appeal.
4) Judge or Jury will make ultimate FACT decision.
Courts of Appeal
1) Cases heard by MULTIPLE judges.
2) They are ONLY considering the law. They will NOT review or reconsider the accuracy of the fact determinations made at the trial court.
3) Instead of a trial with witnesses, the Judges review written memorandum from the lawyers and hear oral arguments where the lawyers are asked questions about their legal interpretations.
4) The judges do not make decisions immediately but will provide a written opinion sometime after the oral argument. These opinions serve as precedents to be used in future cases.
Supreme Court
1) The number of judges ranges from 5 to 9 depending on the state.
2) They decide, in most instances, which cases to hear.
3) They resolve difficult legal questions.
4) Operate similarly to Appellate Courts
The Uniqueness of the US Supreme Court
It has both Original and Appellate jurisdiction.
It hears cases from both State and Federal courts.
But...it is a court of LIMITED jurisdiction.
Article III, Section 2
US Constitution
These are the ONLY cases the US Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear:
The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;--between a State and Citizens of another State;--between Citizens of different States;--between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.
In these matters, they have original jurisdiction:
In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party
In every other case, they have appellate jurisdiction.
What does this mean?????
Unless the case connects to the US Constitution in some way, STATE supreme courts have the
word on cases arising in their state.
Nine Justices
Select about 100 cases per year
Of those 100, 2-3 receive national attention but all have great legal significance.
Rarely exercise their original jurisdiction
Full transcript