The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with Western culture and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject.(December 2016)
A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law.In both common law and civil law legal systems, courts are the central means for dispute resolution, and it is generally understood that all people have an ability to bring their claims before a court. Similarly, the rights of those accused of a crime include the right to present a defense before a court.
The system of courts that interprets and applies the law is collectively known as the judiciary. The place where a court sits is known as a venue. The room where court proceedings occur is known as a courtroom, and the building as a courthouse; court facilities range from simple and very small facilities in rural communities to large complex facilities in urban communities.
The practical authority given to the court is known as its jurisdiction (from Latin iūrisdictiō, from iūris, "of the law," + dīcō, "to declare," + -tiō, noun-forming suffix), the court's power to decide certain kinds of questions or petitions put to it. According to William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, a court (for civil wrongs) is constituted by a minimum of three parties: the āctor or plaintiff, who complains of an injury done; the reus or defendant, who is called upon to make satisfaction for it; and the jūdex or judicial power, who is to examine the truth of the fact, determine the law arising upon that fact, and, if any injury appears to have been done, ascertain and by its officers apply a legal remedy. It is also usual in the superior courts to have barristers, and attorneys or counsel, as assistants, though, often, courts consist of additional barristers, bailiffs, reporters, and perhaps a jury.
The term "the court" is also used to refer to the presiding officer or officials, usually one or more judges. The judge or panel of judges may also be collectively referred to as "the bench" (in contrast to attorneys and barristers, collectively referred to as "the bar").
In the United States, the legal authority of a court to take action is based on personal jurisdiction over the parties to the litigation and subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims asserted.
The word court comes from the French cour, an enclosed yard, which derives from the Latin form cōrtem, the accusative case of cohors, which again means an enclosed yard or the occupants of such a yard. The English word court is a cognate of the Latin word hortus from Ancient Greek χόρτος (khórtos) (meaning "garden", hence horticulture and orchard), both referring to an enclosed space.
The meaning of a judicial assembly is first attested in the 12th century, and derives from the earlier usage to designate a sovereign and his entourage, which met to adjudicate disputes in such an enclosed yard. The verb "to court", meaning to win favor, derives from the same source since people traveled to the sovereign's court to win his favor.
Jurisdiction is defined as the official authority to make legal decisions and judgements over a person or material item within a territory.
"Whether a given court has jurisdiction to preside over a given case" is a key question in any legal action. rēs), jurisdiction over the particular subject matter (subject-matter jurisdiction) and territorial jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over a person refers to the full authority over a person regardless on where they live, jurisdiction over a particular subject matter refers to the authority over the said subject of legal cases involved in a case, and lastly territorial jurisdiction is the authority over a person within an x amount of space.Three basic components of jurisdiction are personal jurisdiction over an individual or thing (
Other concepts of jurisdiction include general jurisdiction, exclusive jurisdiction, appellate jurisdiction, and (in the United States federal courts) diversity jurisdiction.
Trial courts are courts that hold trials. Sometimes termed "courts of first instance", trial courts have varying original jurisdiction. Trial courts may conduct trials with juries as the finders of fact (these are known as jury trials) or trials in which judges act as both finders of fact and finders of law (in some jurisdictions these are known as bench trials). Juries are less common in court systems outside the Anglo-American common law tradition.
Appellate courts are courts that hear appeals of lower courts and trial courts.
Some courts, such as the Crown Court in England and Wales may have both trial and appellate jurisdictions.
The two major legal traditions of the western world are the civil law courts and the common law courts. These two great legal traditions are similar, in that they are products of western culture although there are significant differences between the two traditions. Civil law courts are profoundly based upon Roman Law, specifically a civil body of law entitled "Corpus iuris civilis".This theory of civil law was rediscovered around the end of the eleventh century and became a foundation for university legal education starting in Bologna, Italy and subsequently being taught throughout continental European Universities.
Civil law is firmly ensconced in the French and German legal systems. Common law courts were established by English royal judges of the King's Council after the Norman Invasion of Britain in 1066.The royal judges created a body of law by combining local customs they were made aware of through traveling and visiting local jurisdictions. This common standard of law became known as "Common Law". This legal tradition is practiced in the English and American legal systems. In most civil law jurisdictions, courts function under an inquisitorial system. In the common law system, most courts follow the adversarial system. Procedural law governs the rules by which courts operate: civil procedure for private disputes (for example); and criminal procedure for violation of the criminal law. In recent years international courts are being created to resolve matters not covered by the jurisdiction of national courts. For example, The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, in The Kingdom of The Netherlands or The Court of Permanent Lok Adalat (Public Utility Services), based in India.
Television show courts, which are not part of the judicial system and are generally private arbitrators, are depicted within the court show genre; however, the courts depicted have been criticized as misrepresenting real-life courts of law and the true nature of the legal system.Notable court shows include:
A jury trial, or trial by jury, is a lawful proceeding in which a jury makes a decision or findings of fact. It is distinguished from a bench trial in which a judge or panel of judges makes all decisions.
In the United States, a state court has jurisdiction over disputes with some connection to a U.S. state. State courts handle the vast majority of civil and criminal cases in the United States; the United States federal courts are far smaller in terms of both personnel and caseload, and handle different types of cases.
A county court is a court based in or with a jurisdiction covering one or more counties, which are administrative divisions within a country, not to be confused with the medieval system of county courts held by the high sheriff of each county.
An inquisitorial system is a legal system in which the court, or a part of the court, is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case. This is distinct from an adversarial system, in which the role of the court is primarily that of an impartial referee between the prosecution and the defense. Inquisitorial systems are used primarily in countries with civil legal systems, such as France and Italy, or legal systems based on Islamic law like Saudi Arabia, rather than in common law systems. It is the prevalent legal system in Continental Europe, Latin America, African countries not formerly under British rule, East Asia, Indochina, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Most countries with an inquisitorial system also have some form of civil code as their main source of law.
The Court of Cassation is one of the four courts of last resort in France. It has jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters triable in the judicial system, and is the supreme court of appeal in these cases. It has jurisdiction to review the law, and to certify questions of law, to determine miscarriages of justice. The Court is located in the Palace of Justice in Paris.
The courts of England and Wales, supported administratively by His Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in England and Wales.
A trial court or court of first instance is a court having original jurisdiction, in which trials take place. Appeals from the decisions of trial courts are usually made by higher courts with the power of appellate review. Most appellate courts do not have the authority to hear testimony or take evidence, but instead rule solely on matters of law.
In common law systems, a superior court is a court of general jurisdiction over civil and criminal legal cases. A superior court is "superior" in relation to a court with limited jurisdiction, which is restricted to civil cases involving monetary amounts with a specific limit, or criminal cases involving offenses of a less serious nature. A superior court may hear appeals from lower courts. For courts of general jurisdiction in civil law system, see Ordinary court.
A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes—whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title. For example, an advocate who appears before a court with a single judge could describe that judge as "their tribunal." Many governmental bodies that are titled as "tribunals" are described so in order to emphasize that they are not courts of normal jurisdiction. For example, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was a body specially constituted under international law; in Great Britain, employment tribunals are bodies set up to hear specific employment disputes. In many cases, the word tribunal implies a judicial body with a lesser degree of formality than a court, in which the normal rules of evidence and procedure may not apply, and whose presiding officers are frequently neither judges, nor magistrates. Private judicial bodies are also often styled "tribunals." The word tribunal, however, is not conclusive of a body's function—for example, in Great Britain, the Employment Appeal Tribunal is a superior court of record.
The court system of Canada forms the country's judiciary, formally known as "The King on the Bench", which interprets the law and is made up of many courts differing in levels of legal superiority and separated by jurisdiction. Some of the courts are federal in nature, while others are provincial or territorial.
The structure of the judiciary of Texas is laid out in Article 5 of the Constitution of Texas and is further defined by statute, in particular the Texas Government Code and Texas Probate Code. The structure is complex, featuring many layers of courts, numerous instances of overlapping jurisdiction, several differences between counties, as well as an unusual bifurcated appellate system at the top level found in only one other state: Oklahoma. Municipal Courts are the most active courts, with County Courts and District Courts handling most other cases and often sharing the same courthouse.
In France, a cour d'assises, or Assize Court, is a criminal trial court with original and appellate limited jurisdiction to hear cases involving defendants accused of felonies, meaning crimes as defined in French. It is the only French court consisting in a jury trial.
A supreme court is the highest court within the hierarchy of courts in many legal jurisdictions. Other descriptions for such courts include court of last resort, apex court, and highcourt of appeal. Broadly speaking, the decisions of a supreme court are not subject to further review by any other court. Supreme courts typically function primarily as appellate courts, hearing appeals from decisions of lower trial courts, or from intermediate-level appellate courts.
The Court of King's Bench of Manitoba —or the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba, depending on the monarch—is the superior court of the Canadian province of Manitoba.
The term county judge is applied as a descriptor, sometimes as a title, for a person who presides over a county court. In most cases, such as in Northern Ireland and the Victorian County Courts, a county judge is a judicial officer with civil or criminal jurisdiction. In the United States, however, there are some "County Courts" which exercise primarily administrative functions, in which case the County Judge may exercise largely or solely executive authority and be equivalent to the county executive in other local government areas.
The Judiciary of Vermont is the state court system of Vermont, charged with Vermont law.
The Judiciary of New York is the judicial branch of the Government of New York, comprising all the courts of the State of New York.
In law, an appeal is the process in which cases are reviewed by a higher authority, where parties request a formal change to an official decision. Appeals function both as a process for error correction as well as a process of clarifying and interpreting law. Although appellate courts have existed for thousands of years, common law countries did not incorporate an affirmative right to appeal into their jurisprudence until the 19th century.
The judiciary of Belgium is similar to the French judiciary. Belgium evolved from a unitary to a federal state, but its judicial system has not been adapted to a federal system.
France's criminal legal system derived from Roman law is typically characterized by the European continent. It is not only a feudal system in the Middle Age, but also a representative of the civil law system. France is committed to the judicial system which was gradually established after the French Revolution in the late 18th century. From beginning of the 19th century to nowadays, Napoleon codified a series of significant rules and established the common court system, administrative court system as well as independent judicial system which formed a unified modern judicial system.