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INTRODUCTION TO COURTS AND JURISDICTION
There are two major court systems in the United States: 1. Federal court system and 2. The court systems of the 50 states, Washington, DC (district of Columbia)., and territories of the United States. Each of these systems has jurisdiction to hear different types of lawsuits. This chapter discusses the various court systems and the Jurisdiction of different courts to hear and decide cases.
STATE COURT SYSTEM
Each state, Washington, DC; and each territory of the United States has its own separate court system (hereafter collectively referred to as state courts). Most state court systems include the following: limited-jurisdiction trial courts, general - jurisdiction trial courts, intermediate appellate courts, and a supreme court.
1. Limited Jurisdiction trial courts: State limited -jurisdiction trial courts, which are sometimes referred to as inferior trial courts, hear matters of a specialized or limited nature.
Examples Traffic courts, Juvenile courts, Justice-of-the peace courts, probate courts, family law courts, and courts that hear misdemeanor criminal law cases are limited -jurisdiction courts in many states.
Because limited -jurisdiction courts are trial courts, evidence can be introduced and testimony can be given. Most limited-jurisdiction courts keep records of their proceedings. A decision of such a court can usually be appealed to a general-jurisdiction court or an appellate court. Many states have also created SMALL CLAIMS COURTS to hear civil cases involving small dollar amounts (e.g., $5000 or less). Generally, the parties must appear individually and cannot have lawyers represent them. The decisions of small claims courts are often appealable to general-jurisdiction trial courts or appellate courts.
2. General -Jurisdiction Trial Courts: Every state gas a GENERAL-JURISDICTION COURTS. These courts are often referred to as courts of record because the testimony and evidence at trial are recorded and stored for future reference. These courts hear cases that are not within the jurisdiction of limited -jurisdiction trial courts, such as felonies, civil cases more than a certain dollar amount, and so on.
Some states divide their general-jurisdiction courts into two divisions, one for criminal cases and one for civil cases. Evidence and testimony are given at general -jurisdiction trial courts. The decisions handed down by these courts are appealable to an intermediate appellate court or the state supreme court, depending on the circumstances.
3. Intermediate Appellate Courts : In many states, Intermediate appellate courts (also called appellate courts or courts of appeals)hear appeals from trial courts. They review the trial court record to determine whether there have been any errors at trial that would require reversal or modification of the trial court's decision. Thus, an appellate court reviews either pertinent parts or the whole trial court record from the lower court. No new evidence or testimony is permitted.
The parties usually file legal briefs with the appellate court stating the law and facts that support their positions. Appellate courts usually grant a brief oral hearing to the parties. Appellate court decisions are appealable to the state's higher court. In sparsely populated states that do not have an intermediate appellate court, trial court decisions can be appealed directly to the state's highest court.
4. Highest State Court: Each state has a highest state court in its court system. Many states call this highest court the state supreme court. Some states use other names for their highest courts. The function of a state's highest court is to hear appeals from intermediate appellate state courts and certain trial courts. No new evidence or testimony is heard. The parties usually submit pertinent parts of or the entire lower court record for review. The parties also submit legal briefs to the court and are usually granted a brief oral hearing. Decisions of highest state courts are final unless a question of law is involved that is appealable to the U.S. Supreme court.
• Write a memo on a State (not Federal) level business dispute. Describe as if you were writing a "WHITE PAPER" FOR YOUR BOSS WHO WANTS TO KNOW HOW A CASE LIKE THE ONE YOU HAVE CHOSEN WOULD BE PROCESSED THROUGHOUT THE VARIOUS LEGAL PHASES IN A STATE COURT SYSTEM.