Note that technological developments are affecting court
procedures just as they are affecting all other areas of the law.
In this chapter, we also indicate how court doctrines and pro-
cedures, as well as alternative methods of dispute settlement,
are being adapted to the needs of a cyber age.
As you learned in Chapter 1, the body of American law
includes the federal and state constitutions, statutes passed by
legislative bodies, administrative law, and the case decisions
and legal principles that form the common law. These laws
would be meaningless, however, without the courts to inter-
pret and apply them. This is the essential role of the judici-
ary—the courts—in the American governmental system: to
interpret and apply the law.
As the branch of government entrusted with interpreting the
laws, the judiciary can decide, among other things, whether
the laws or actions of the other two branches are constitutional.
THE JUDICIARY’S ROLE
IN AMERICAN GOVERNMENT
ltimately, we are all affected by what the courts say
and do. This is particularly true in the business
world—nearly every businessperson will face either a poten-
tial or an actual lawsuit at some time or another. For this rea-
son, anyone contemplating a career in business will benefit
from an understanding of court systems in the United States,
including the mechanics of lawsuits.
In this chapter, after examining the judiciary’s overall role
in the American governmental scheme, we discuss some
basic requirements that must be met before a party may bring
a lawsuit before a particular court. We then look at the court
systems of the United States in some detail and, to clarify
judicial procedures, follow a hypothetical case through a
state court system. Even though there are fifty-two court sys-
tems in the United States—one for each of the fifty states,
one for the District of Columbia, plus a federal system—sim-
ilarities abound. Keep in mind that the federal courts are not
superior to the state courts; they are simply an independent
system of courts, which derives its authority from Article III,
Sections 1 and 2, of the U.S. Constitution. The chapter con-
cludes with an overview of some alternative methods of set-
tling disputes, including methods for settling disputes in
AFTER READING THIS CHAPTER, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
What is judicial review? How and when was the power of judicial review established?
Before a court can hear a case, it must have jurisdiction. Over what must it have jurisdiction? How are the courts
applying traditional jurisdictional concepts to cases involving Internet transactions?
What is the difference between a trial court and an appellate court?