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United States of America
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 much smaller in case load and personnel, United States federal courts, handle different types of cases.
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a legal body to administer justice within a defined field of responsibility, e.g., Michigan tax law. In federations like the United States, areas of jurisdiction apply to local, state, and federal levels; e.g. the court has jurisdiction to apply federal law.
In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders.
Generally, state courts are common law courts, and apply their respective state laws and procedures to decide cases. They are organized pursuant to and apply the law in accordance with their state's constitution, state statutes, and binding decisions of courts in their state court hierarchy. Where applicable, they also apply federal law. Generally, a single judicial officer, usually called a judge, exercises original jurisdiction by presiding over contested criminal or civil actions which culminate in trials, although most matters stop short of reaching trial. The decisions of lower courts may be reviewed by a panel of a state court of appeals. Generally, there is also a highest court for appeals, a state supreme court, that oversees the court system. In matters that involve issues of federal law, the final decision of the state's highest court (including refusals to hear final appeals) may be appealed to the United States Supreme Court (which also has the discretion to refuse to hear them).
Common law is the body of law derived from judicial decisions of courts and similar tribunals. The defining characteristic of "common law" is that it arises as precedent. In cases where the parties disagree on what the law is, a common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts, and synthesizes the principles of those past cases as applicable to the current facts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is usually bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision. If, however, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases, and legislative statutes are either silent or ambiguous on the question, judges have the authority and duty to resolve the issue. The court states an opinion that gives reasons for the decision, and those reasons agglomerate with past decisions as precedent to bind future judges and litigants. Common law, as the body of law made by judges, stands in contrast to and on equal footing with statutes which are adopted through the legislative process, and regulations which are promulgated by the executive branch. Stare decisis, the principle that cases should be decided according to consistent principled rules so that similar facts will yield similar results, lies at the heart of all common law systems.
In common law legal systems original jurisdiction of a court is the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, when a higher court has the power to review a lower court's decision. Original jurisdiction refers to the right of the Supreme court to hear a case for the first time. It has the exclusive right to hear all cases that deal with disputes between states, or between states and the union government. It also has original jurisdiction over cases brought to the court by ordinary people regarding issues to the importance of society at large.
In the United States, a state supreme court is the ultimate judicial tribunal in the court system of a particular state. On matters of state law, the decisions of a state supreme court are considered final and binding on state and even United States federal courts.
Cases in state courts begin in a trial court where lawsuits and criminal cases are filed and evidence is eventually presented if a case proceeds to a hearing or trial. Trials in these courts are often held only after extensive pre-trial procedures that in more than 90% of cases lead to a default judgment in a civil case, an agreed resolution settling the case or plea bargain resolving a criminal case, or pre-trial resolution of the case by a judge either on the merits or on procedural grounds. Territory outside of any state in the United States, such as the District of Columbia or American Samoa, often has a court system established under federal or territorial law which substitutes for a state court system and is distinct from the ordinary federal court system.
A trial court or court of first instance is a court having original jurisdiction, in which trials take place.
The law of evidence, also known as the rules of evidence, encompasses the rules and legal principles that govern the proof of facts in a legal proceeding. These rules determine what evidence must or must not be considered by the trier of fact in reaching its decision. The trier of fact is a judge in bench trials, or the jury in any cases involving a jury. The law of evidence is also concerned with the quantum (amount), quality, and type of proof needed to prevail in litigation. The rules vary depending upon whether the venue is a criminal court, civil court, or family court, and they vary by jurisdiction.
Default judgment is a binding judgment in favor of either party based on some failure to take action by the other party. Most often, it is a judgment in favor of a plaintiff when the defendant has not responded to a summons or has failed to appear before a court of law. The failure to take action is the default. The default judgment is the relief requested in the party's original petition.
State trial courts are usually located in a courthouse, which is often in the county seat. Even when state trial courts include more than one county in a judicial district, it isn't uncommon for the state trial court to hold regular sessions at each county seat in its jurisdiction and function from the point of view of litigants as if it were a county-based court.
A courthouse is a building that is home to a local court of law and often the regional county government as well, although this is not the case in some larger cities. The term is common in North America. In most other English-speaking countries, buildings which house courts of law are simply called "courts" or "court buildings". In most of Continental Europe and former non-English-speaking European colonies, the equivalent term is a palace of justice.
A county seat is an administrative center, seat of government, or capital city of a county or civil parish. The term is used in Canada, China, Romania, Taiwan and the United States. County towns have a similar function in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, and historically in Jamaica.
If one of the litigants is unsatisfied with the decision of the lower court, the matter may be taken up on appeal (but an acquittal in a criminal trial may not be appealed by the state due to the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy). Usually, an intermediate appellate court, if there is one in that state, often called the state court of appeals, will review the decision of the trial court. If still unsatisfied, the litigant can appeal to the highest appellate court in the state, which is usually called the state supreme court and is usually located in or near the state capital. Appellate courts in the United States, unlike their civil law counterparts, are generally not permitted to correct mistakes concerning the facts of the case on appeal, only mistakes of law, or findings of fact with no support in the trial court record.
In law, an appeal is the process in which cases are reviewed, 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.
In common law jurisdictions, an acquittal certifies that the accused is free from the charge of an offense, as far as the criminal law is concerned. This is so even where the prosecution is simply abandoned by the prosecution. The finality of an acquittal is dependent on the jurisdiction. In some countries, such as the United States, an acquittal operates to bar the retrial of the accused for the same offense, even if new evidence surfaces that further implicates the accused. The effect of an acquittal on criminal proceedings is the same whether it results from a jury verdict or results from the operation of some other rule that discharges the accused. In other countries, the prosecuting authority may appeal an acquittal similar to how a defendant may appeal a conviction.
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution addresses criminal procedure and other aspects of the Constitution. It was ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment applies to every level of the government, including the federal, state, and local levels, as well as any corporation, private enterprise, group, or individual, or any foreign government in regard to a US citizen or resident of the US. The Supreme Court furthered the protections of this amendment through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Many states have courts of limited jurisdiction (inferior jurisdiction), presided over by, for example, a magistrate or justice of the peace who hears criminal arraignments and tries petty offenses and small civil cases. Appeals from courts of limited jurisdiction are frequently sent to state trial courts of general jurisdiction rather than to an appellate court.
Limited jurisdiction, or special jurisdiction, is the court's jurisdiction only on certain types of cases such as bankruptcy, family matters, etc.
The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome, a magistratus was one of the highest ranking government officers, and possessed both judicial and executive powers. In other parts of the world, such as China, a magistrate was responsible for administration over a particular geographic area. Today, in some jurisdictions, a magistrate is a judicial officer who hears cases in a lower court, and typically deals with more minor or preliminary matters. In other jurisdictions, magistrates may be volunteers without formal legal training who perform a judicial role with regard to minor matters.
A Justice of the peace (JP) is a judicial officer of a lower or puisne court, elected or appointed by means of a commission to keep the peace. In past centuries the term commissioner of the peace was often used with the same meaning. Depending on the jurisdiction, such justices dispense summary justice or merely deal with local administrative applications in common law jurisdictions. Justices of the peace are appointed or elected from the citizens of the jurisdiction in which they serve, and are usually not required to have any formal legal education in order to qualify for the office. Some jurisdictions have varying forms of training for JPs.
Larger cities often have city courts (also known as municipal courts) which hear traffic offenses and violations of city ordinances; in some states, such as New York, these courts also have broader jurisdictions as inferior jurisdiction courts and can handle small civil claims and misdemeanors. Other courts of limited jurisdiction include alderman's courts, police court, mayor's courts, recorder's courts, county courts, probate courts, municipal courts, juvenile courts, courts of claims, courts of common pleas, family courts, small claims courts, tax courts, water courts (present in some western states such as Colorado and Montana), and workers' compensation courts. Many states follow the federal government practice of having one or more separate systems of administrative law judges in the executive branch in addition to judicial branch judges, for example, to handle driver's license revocations, unemployment insurance claims, or land use disputes.
All these courts are distinguished from courts of general jurisdiction (also known as "superior jurisdiction"), which are the default type of trial court that can hear any case which is not required to be first heard in a court of limited jurisdiction. Most such cases are civil cases involving large sums of money or criminal trials arising from serious crimes like rape and murder. Typically, felonies are handled in general jurisdiction courts, while misdemeanors and other lesser offenses are handled in inferior jurisdiction courts. Unlike most European courts (in both common law and civil law countries), American state courts do not usually have a separate court that handles serious crimes; jurisdiction lies with the court that handles all other felony cases in a given county. But, many state courts that handle criminal cases have separate divisions or judges assigned to handle certain types of crimes such as a drug court, sometimes also known as a "problem-solving court".
A few states like California have unified all courts of general and inferior jurisdiction to make the judicial process more efficient.[ citation needed ] In such judicial systems, there are still departments of limited jurisdiction within the trial courts, and often these departments occupy exactly the same facilities they once occupied as independent courts of limited jurisdiction.[ citation needed ] However, as mere administrative divisions, departments can be rearranged at the discretion of each trial court's presiding judge in response to changing caseloads.[ citation needed ]
Unlike federal courts, where judges are presidential appointee s confirmed by the U.S. Senate serving life terms of office, the vast majority of states have some judges who are elected, and the methods of appointment for appointed judges vary widely. State court judges are usually distinguished attorneys who have had some political involvement, who are pursuing second careers on the bench. But a small number of state court judges, particularly in limited jurisdiction trial courts in rural areas or small towns, are non-lawyers, who are often elected to their posts.
A disproportionate share of state court judges previously served as prosecutors, or less commonly as criminal defense attorneys or trial lawyers, although no particular background as an attorney is required to serve as a judge. The judiciary is not a separate profession in the American legal system as it is in many civil law jurisdictions. While in many civil law jurisdictions a common judicial career involves an entry level assignment in an inferior court followed by promotions to more senior courts over the course of a career, no U.S. court system makes experienced in an inferior judicial position a pre-requisite to higher judicial office.
While many countries consider criminal prosecutors to be part of the judicial branch, in the United States, all criminal prosecutors are considered part of the executive branch. The fact that all attorneys admitted to the practice of law are somewhat confusingly called "officers of the court" in U.S. legal practice is a legal fiction that calls attention to the special professional ethical obligations that all lawyers have to the court, and does not mean that all lawyers are employees or agents of the judicial branch.
State court judges are typically paid less, have smaller staffs, and handle larger caseloads than their counterparts in the federal judiciary.
The vast majority of non-criminal cases in the United States are handled in state courts, rather than federal courts. For example, in Colorado, roughly 97% of all civil cases were filed in state courts and 89% of the civil cases filed in federal court were bankruptcies in 2002, a typical year. Just 0.3% of the non-bankruptcy civil cases in the state were filed in federal court.
A large share of all civil cases filed in state courts are debt collection cases. For example, in Colorado in 2002, about 87% of all civil cases filed in the courts of inferior jurisdiction were debt collection and eviction cases, while in the court of general jurisdiction, about 60% of all civil cases (other than domestic relations and probate cases) were debt collection, foreclosure, and tax collection cases. A large share of the balance of civil cases in courts of limited jurisdiction involve temporary restraining orders, typically in non-marital domestic relations contexts, and name change petitions (generally for marriage, divorce or child custody reasons). A large share of the balance of civil cases in courts of general jurisdiction involve divorces, child custody disputes, child abuse cases, uncontested probate administrations, and personal injury cases that do not involve workplace injuries (which are usually handled through a non-judicial workers compensation process).
Many state court civil cases produce quick default judgments or pretrial settlements, but even considering only cases that actually go to trial, state courts are the dominant forum for civil cases. In Colorado, in 2002, there were 79 civil trials in federal court (41 jury and 38 non-jury), and 5950 civil trials in state court (300 jury and 5650 non-jury).Essentially all probate and divorce cases are also brought in state court, even if the parties involved live in different states. In practice, almost all real property evictions and foreclosures are handled in state court.
State courts systems always contain some courts of "general jurisdiction". All disputes which are capable of being brought in courts, arising under either state or federal law may be brought in one of the state courts, except in a few narrow case where federal law specifically limits jurisdiction exclusively to the federal courts. Some of the most notable cases exclusively in federal jurisdiction are suits between state governments, suits involving ambassadors, certain intellectual property cases, federal criminal cases, bankruptcy cases, large interstate class action cases, and most securities fraud class actions. There are also a handful of federal laws under which lawsuits can be pursued only in state court, such as those arising under the federal "junk fax" law.There have been times in U.S. history where almost all small claims, even if they arose under federal law, were required to be brought in state courts.
State court systems usually have expedited procedures for civil disputes involving small dollar amounts (typically under $5,000 to $25,000 depending upon the state court in question), most of which involve collection of small contractual debts (such as unpaid credit cards) and landlord-tenant matters. Many states have small claims divisions where all parties proceed in civil cases without lawyers, often before a magistrate or justice of the peace. Federal courts do not have parallel small claims procedures and apply the same civil rules to all civil cases, which makes federal court an expensive venue for a private party to pursue a claim for a small dollar amount.
Unlike state courts, federal courts are courts of "limited jurisdiction", that can only hear the types of cases specified in the Constitution and federal statutes (primarily federal crimes, cases arising under federal law, cases with a United States government party, and cases involving a diversity of citizenship between the parties).
Often, a plaintiff can bring a matter either to state court or to federal court, because it arises under federal law, or involves a substantial monetary dispute (in excess of $75,000 as of October 26, 2007) arising under state law between parties that do not reside in the same state. If a plaintiff files suit in state court in such a case, the defendant can remove the case to federal court.
There is no federal constitutional right to a trial by jury in a state civil case under the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, and not all states preserve a right to a civil jury in either their state constitution or state statutes. In practice, however, civil jury trials are available, generally on a similar basis to their availability in federal court, in every state except Louisiana. In these states, there is a general right to a jury trial in cases that would arise at law in colonial England, which generally includes most cases seeking simple money damages and no other relief. In practice, about three-quarters of all civil jury trials involved personal injury cases, and most of the rest involve breaches of contracts. In states where a state constitution provides for a right to a jury trial, or a right to open courts, this has sometimes been interpreted to confer not only a procedural right to a certain type of trial, but also a substantive right to have redress through the courts for the kinds of injuries that were compensable at common law.
Prior to trial, most proceedings in non-criminal courts are conducted via papers filed in the court, often through lawyers. In limited jurisdiction courts, it is not uncommon for an initial appearance to be made in person at which a settlement is often reached. In general jurisdiction state courts, it is not uncommon for all pre-trial matters to be conducted outside the court, with attorneys negotiating scheduling matters, pre-trial examinations of witnesses taking place in lawyer's office through deposition s, and a settlement conference conducted by a private mediator at the mediator's office.
About 91% of people in prison at any given time in the United States were convicted in state court for violating state criminal laws, rather than in federal court for violating federal criminal laws, including 99% of defendants sentenced to death.
The proportion of criminal cases brought in state court rather than federal court is higher than 91% because misdemeanor and petty offense prosecutions are disproportionately brought in state courts and most criminal prosecutions involve misdemeanors and petty offenses. The number of trials conducted in each system is another way to illustrate the relative size of the two criminal justice systems. In Colorado, in 2002, there were approximately 40 criminal trials in federal court, and there were 1,898 criminal trials (excluding hundreds of quasi-criminal trials in juvenile cases, municipal cases and infraction cases) in state courts, so only about 2% of criminal trials took place in federal court. Most jury trials in the United States (roughly five out of six jury trials conducted in any U.S. Court) take place in criminal cases in state courts.
State courts do not have jurisdiction over criminal cases arising on Indian reservation s even if those reservations are located in their state. Less serious crimes on Indian reservations are prosecuted in tribal courts. A large share of violent crimes that are prosecuted in federal court arise on Indian reservations or federal property, where state courts lack jurisdiction, since tribal court jurisdiction is usually limited to less serious offenses. Federal crimes on federal property in a state are often defined with reference to state criminal law.
Federal courts disproportionately handle white-collar crimes, immigration-related crimes and drug offenses (these crimes make up about 70% of the federal docket, but just 19% of the state court criminal docket).Federal courts have the power to bring death penalty charges under federal law, even if they arise in states where there is no death penalty under state law, but the federal government rarely utilizes this right.
Many rights of criminal defendants in state courts arise under federal law, but federal courts only examine if the state courts applied those federal rights correctly on a direct appeal from the conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, after state court direct appeals have been exhausted, or in a collateral attack on a conviction in a habeas corpus proceeding after all state court remedies (usually including a state court habeas corpus proceeding) have been exhausted. Some rights of criminal defendants that apply in federal court do not exist in state court. For example, in many states there is no constitutional right to be indicted by a grand jury before facing a criminal prosecution for a felony or infamous misdemeanor. Two states (Louisiana and Oregon) do not require unanimous juries in non-capital criminal cases.
Unlike non-criminal cases, criminal proceedings in state courts are primarily conducted orally, in person, in open court.
In most, but not all states (California and New York are significant exceptions), the state supreme court or a related administrative body has the power to write the rules of procedure that govern the courts through a rule-making process. In a minority of the states, criminal and civil procedure are largely governed by state statutes.
Most states model their general jurisdiction trial court rules closely upon the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure with modifications to address types of cases that come up only in state practice (like traffic violations), and model their professional ethics rules closely upon models drafted by the American Bar Association with minor modifications. A minority of states, however, have idiosyncratic procedural rules, often based on the Field Code in place in many states before the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were adopted. Importantly, neither California nor New York state follow federal models.
Typically, state trial courts of limited jurisdiction have generally similar rules to state trial courts of general jurisdiction, but are stripped of rules applicable to special cases like class actions and many pretrial procedures (such as out-of-court discovery in the absence of a court order).
Most state supreme courts also have general supervisory authority over the state court system. In this capacity they are responsible, for example, for making budget requests and administrative management decisions for the court system as a whole. In most states, such administrative authority has been transferred or delegated to a state judicial council which includes members of lower courts.
All state supreme courts are the de jure primary regulatory body for all lawyers in their state and determine who can practice law and when lawyers are sanctioned for violations of professional ethical rules, which are generally also put in place as state court rules. In all states, such powers have been delegated either to the state bar association or various committees, commissions, or offices directly responsible to the state supreme court. The result is that such subordinate entities generally have original jurisdiction over lawyer admissions and discipline, nearly all de facto lawyer regulation takes place through such entities, and the state supreme court becomes directly involved only when petitioned to not ratify the decisions made by some subordinate entity in its name.
Although the United States Constitution and federal laws override state laws where there is a conflict between federal and state law, state courts are not subordinate to federal courts. Rather, as instruments of separate sovereigns (under the U.S. system of dual sovereignty), they are two parallel sets of courts with different but often overlapping jurisdiction.
As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins (1938), no part of the federal Constitution actually grants federal courts the power to directly decide the content of state law. Clause 1 of Section 2 of Article Three of the United States Constitution describes the scope of federal judicial power, but only extended it to "the Laws of the United States" and not the laws of the several or individual states.
The U.S. Supreme Court can but is not required to review final decisions of state courts, after a party exhausts all remedies up to a request for relief from the state's highest appellate court, if the Court believes that the case involves an important question of federal law. Because of the aforementioned silence in the Constitution (as well as Section 25 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 and successor sections), the Court cannot and never reviews decisions of state courts that depend entirely on the resolution of a state law issue; there must be an issue of federal law (such as the federal constitutional right to due process) implicit in the state case before the Court will even agree to hear it. Since there really is no such issue in the vast majority of state cases, the decision of the state supreme court in such cases is effectively final, as any petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court will be summarily denied without comment.
The following table notes the names of the courts in the states and territories of the United States. Listed are the principal courts of first instance (general jurisdiction), the principal intermediate appellate courts, and the courts of final appeal or resort.
In some cases where courts are generally assigned to counties, the number of county-based courts does not exactly match the number of actual counties in the state. This happens when a single court has jurisdiction over more than one county.
|State||Court of first instance (general jurisdiction trial courts)||Intermediate appellate court|| Court of last resort |
(State supreme court)
|Alabama||Circuit Court (41 judicial districts)|| Court of Civil Appeals |
Court of Criminal Appeals
|Alaska||Superior Court (4 districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Arizona||Superior Court (15 counties)||Court of Appeals (2 divisions)||Supreme Court|
|Arkansas||Circuit Court (23 judicial circuits)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|California||Superior Court (58 counties)||Courts of Appeal (6 appellate districts)||Supreme Court|
|Colorado||District Court (22 judicial districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Connecticut||Superior Court (13 judicial districts)||Appellate Court||Supreme Court|
|Delaware|| Superior Court |
Court of Chancery
|District of Columbia||Superior Court||(none)||Court of Appeals|
|Florida||Circuit Court (20 judicial circuits)||District Court of Appeal (5 districts)||Supreme Court|
|Georgia||Superior Court (49 judicial circuits)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Hawaii||Circuit Court (4 circuits)||Intermediate Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Idaho||District Court (7 judicial districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Illinois||Circuit Court (23 judicial circuits)||Appellate Court (5 districts)||Supreme Court|
|Indiana||Trial Court (26 districts)||Court of Appeals (5 districts)||Supreme Court|
|Iowa||District Court (8 districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Kansas||District Court (31 districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Kentucky||Circuit Court (57 circuits)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Louisiana||District Court (40 districts)||Circuit Courts of Appeal (5 circuits)||Supreme Court|
|Maine||Superior Court||(none)||Supreme Judicial Court|
|Maryland||Circuit Court (8 judicial circuits)||Court of Special Appeals||Court of Appeals|
|Massachusetts||Superior Court (14 divisions)||Appeals Court||Supreme Judicial Court|
|Michigan||Circuit Court (57 circuits)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Minnesota||District Court (10 districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Mississippi||Circuit Court (22 districts)|
Chancery Court (20 districts)
|Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Missouri||Circuit Court (45 circuits)||Court of Appeals (3 districts)||Supreme Court|
|Montana||District Court (22 judicial districts)||(none)||Supreme Court|
|Nebraska||District Court (12 districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Nevada||District Court (10 districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|New Hampshire||Superior Court||(none)||Supreme Court|
|New Jersey||Superior Court (15 vicinages)||Superior Court, Appellate Division||Supreme Court|
|New Mexico||District Court (13 judicial districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|New York|| Supreme Court (12 judicial districts)|
County Court (57 counties)
|Supreme Court, Appellate Division (4 departments)||Court of Appeals|
|North Carolina||Superior Court (46 districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|North Dakota||District Court (7 judicial districts)||(none)||Supreme Court|
|Ohio||Court of Common Pleas (88 counties)||District Court of Appeals (12 districts)||Supreme Court|
|Oklahoma||District Court (26 judicial districts)||Court of Civil Appeals|| Supreme Court |
Court of Criminal Appeals
|Oregon||Circuit Court (27 judicial districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Pennsylvania||Court of Common Pleas (60 judicial districts)|| Commonwealth Court |
|Rhode Island||Superior Court||(none)||Supreme Court|
|South Carolina||Circuit Court (16 circuits)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|South Dakota||Circuit Court (7 circuits)||(none)||Supreme Court|
|Tennessee||Circuit Court (31 judicial districts)|
Criminal Court (31 judicial districts)
Chancery Court (31 judicial districts)
| Court of Appeals (3 grand divisions)|
Court of Criminal Appeals (3 grand divisions)
|Texas||District Court (457 districts )||Court of Appeals (14 districts)|| Supreme Court |
Court of Criminal Appeals
|Utah||District Court (8 districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Vermont|| Superior Court |
|Virginia||Circuit Court (31 judicial circuits)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Washington||Superior Court (39 counties)||Court of Appeals (3 divisions)||Supreme Court|
|West Virginia||Circuit Court (31 judicial circuits)||(none)||Supreme Court of Appeals|
|Wisconsin||Circuit Court (10 judicial administrative districts)||Court of Appeals (4 districts)||Supreme Court|
|Wyoming||District Court (9 districts)||(none)||Supreme Court|
|American Samoa||High Court, Trial Division||(none)||High Court, Appellate Division|
|Guam||Superior Court||(none)||Supreme Court|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Superior Court||(none)||Supreme Court|
|Puerto Rico||Superior Court (13 districts)||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Superior Court (2 divisions)||(none)||Supreme Court|
United States appellate procedure involves the rules and regulations for filing appeals in state courts and federal courts. The nature of an appeal can vary greatly depending on the type of case and the rules of the court in the jurisdiction where the case was prosecuted. There are many types of standard of review for appeals, such as de novo and abuse of discretion. However, most appeals begin when a party files a petition for review to a higher court for the purpose of overturning the lower court's decision.
An appellate court, commonly called an appeals court, court of appeals, appeal court, court of second instance or second instance court, is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal. In most jurisdictions, the court system is divided into at least three levels: the trial court, which initially hears cases and reviews evidence and testimony to determine the facts of the case; at least one intermediate appellate court; and a supreme court which primarily reviews the decisions of the intermediate courts. A jurisdiction's supreme court is that jurisdiction's highest appellate court. Appellate courts nationwide can operate under varying rules.
The United States courts of appeals or circuit courts are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal court system. The courts are divided into 13 circuits, and each hears appeals from the district courts within its borders, or in some instances from other designated federal courts and administrative agencies. Appeals from the courts of appeals are taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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.
Circuit courts are court systems in several common law jurisdictions. The core concept of circuit courts requires judges to travel to different locales to ensure wide visibility and understanding of cases in a region. More generally, some modern circuit courts may also refer to a court that merely holds trials for cases of multiple locations in some rotation.
The court system of Canada forms the judicial branch of government, formally known as "The Queen 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 Alaska Court System is the unified, centrally administered, and totally state-funded judicial system for the State of Alaska. The Alaska District Courts are the primary misdemeanor trial courts, the Alaska Superior Courts are the primary felony trial courts, and the Alaska Supreme Court and the Alaska Court of Appeals are the primary appellate courts. The Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court is the administrative head of the Alaska Court System.
The judiciary of Australia comprises judges who sit in federal courts and courts of the States and Territories of Australia. The High Court of Australia sits at the apex of the Australian court hierarchy as the ultimate court of appeal on matters of both federal and State law.
The judicial system of Israel consists of secular courts and religious courts. The law courts constitute a separate and independent unit of Israel's Ministry of Justice. The system is headed by the President of the Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice.
The Superior Court is the state court in the U.S. state of New Jersey, with statewide trial and appellate jurisdiction. The New Jersey Constitution of 1947 establishes the power of the New Jersey courts. Under the State Constitution, "'judicial power shall be vested in a Supreme Court, a Superior Court, County Courts and inferior courts of limited jurisdiction.'" The Superior Court has three divisions: the Appellate Division is essentially an intermediate appellate court while the Law and Chancery Divisions function as trial courts. The State Constitution renders the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division the intermediate appellate court, and "[a]ppeals may be taken to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court from the law and chancery divisions of the Superior Court and in such other causes as may be provided by law." Each division is in turn divided into various parts. "The trial divisions of the Superior Court are the principal trial courts of New Jersey. They are located within the State's various judicial geographic units, called 'vicinages,' R. 1:33-2(a), and are organized into two basic divisions: the Chancery Division and the Law Division".
The 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 Judiciary of Colorado is established and authorized by Article VI of the Colorado Constitution as well as the law of Colorado. The various courts include the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado Court of Appeals, Colorado district courts, Colorado county courts, Colorado water courts, and municipal courts. The administration of the state judicial system is the responsibility of the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court as its executive head, and is assisted by several other commissions. In Denver, the county and municipal courts are integrated and administratively separate from the state court system.
The Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) is the judicial branch of government of the state of Oregon in the United States. The chief executive of the branch is the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. Oregon’s judiciary consists primarily of four different courts: the Oregon Supreme Court, the Oregon Tax Court, the Oregon Court of Appeals, and the Oregon circuit courts. Additionally, the OJD includes the Council on Court Procedures, the Oregon State Bar, Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability, and the Public Defense Services Commission. Employees of the court are the largest non-union group among state workers.
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
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.
The Judiciary of Virginia is defined under the Constitution and law of Virginia and is composed of the Supreme Court of Virginia and subordinate courts, including the Court of Appeals, the Circuit Courts, and the General District Courts. Its administration is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Judicial Council, the Committee on District Courts, the Judicial Conferences, the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, and various other offices and officers.
The Judiciary of Michigan is defined under the Michigan Constitution, law, and regulations as part of the Government of Michigan. The court system consists of the Michigan Supreme Court, the Michigan Court of Appeals as the intermediate appellate court, the circuit courts and district courts as the two primary trial courts, and several administrative courts and specialized courts. The Supreme Court administers all the courts. The Michigan Supreme Court consists of seven members who are elected on non-partisan ballots for staggered eight-year terms, while state appellate court judges are elected to terms of six years and vacancies are filled by an appointment by the governor, and circuit court and district court judges are elected to terms of six years.