The Legal System
What Is It and How Does It Work?
Webster County High School
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A court or judicial system is a system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state and provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes. The United States Court System is many court systems in one: federal and one court system for every state. Every system has its own structures and procedures. Most legal cases begin in a lower court, like a state court. Sometimes, cases work its way up to higher court, like the Supreme Court. But how does the judicial system actually work? What’s the difference between state judicial systems and the Supreme Court system? Why are they so important? These are some of the frequently asked questions about the United States Judicial System.
State trial courts resolve most legal issues. Trial courts are the lowest in state court systems. Some state court systems have specific structure. Depending on the structure on the specific state, courts maybe city or municipal courts, justice of the peace or jp courts, county or circuit courts, or even regional courts (Wiley & Sons, 2013).
There are two levels of trial courts in most states: trial court with limited jurisdiction and trial court with specific jurisdiction. Jurisdiction refers to the types of cases a court can hear. For example, courts can hear some kinds of civil cases, juvenile cases, minor criminal cases and traffic violations. Some trial courts with limited jurisdiction could also hold pretrial hearings for more serious criminal cases (Wiley & Sons, 2013).
Circuit courts, superior courts, district courts, or courts of common pleas are often types of courts with general jurisdiction depending on your state. Probate courts, family law courts, juvenile courts, and small claims courts are included in specialized trial courts. Specialized trial courts hear cases that are related to a very specific area of law (Wiley & Sons, 2013).
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The appellate courts are the next highest type of court. Appellate courts review decisions and procedures of the trial courts in their systems. They either uphold or reverse their decisions or modify the amount of the monetary reward. Appellate courts retrial occasionally (Wiley & Sons, 2013).
The decisions of the lower court are not automatically appealed. Initiating an appeal and providing a legal basis for appealing a decision is what must happen (Wiley & Sons, 2013).
The Supreme Court is always the last resort for a lower state court. Supreme Court decisions are always final within a state court system. They can even be appealed to the U.S Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reviews the decisions and the procedures of the lower courts, and they don’t hold trials, like appellate courts (Wiley & Sons, 2013).
Most of the federal court systems are divided into districts and circuits. Each state has at least one federal district. Populous states have more than one district. Federal lawsuits start out at the district level in federal courts. Most cases involve legal issues that fall within the jurisdiction of the federal government. Like with state courts, federal courts have certain lawsuits that it can hear. A special federal court can only hear lawsuits that deal with certain types of federal law (Wiley & Sons, 2013).
The Supreme Court is at the very top of the federal court system. If it hears a case, it always has the last word and everything is final. There are nine justices on the Supreme Court. The President nominates them, and then they are approved by the United States Senate. Once they are in the Supreme Court, they are there until they die or until the resign. They may also be impeached for improper behavior or criminal conduct (Wiley & Sons, 2013) (Silverman, 2013).
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The United States Supreme Court doesn’t hear a very large number of cases.