3. Judges present written explanations for their decisions, and these opinions of the court are the basis for a great deal of precedent 4. Do not determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant 5. Primarily concerned with questions of law and normally accept facts as established by trail courts. c. The dual court system i. Federal and state courts both have limited jurisdiction 1. Federal courts deal with acts that violate federal law 2. State courts deal with acts that violate state law 3. A number of crimes are deemed illegal by both federal and state statutes and persons accused of such crimes can be tried in either court system 4. Federal and state prosecutors need to decide who will handle such a case 5. Often prosecutors will “steer” a suspect toward the harsher penalty II. State Court Systems a. Courts of limited jurisdiction i. Local trial courts limited to trying cases involving minor criminal matters
ii. Minor courts usually keep no written record of the trial proceedings iii. Cases decided by judge rather than by a jury iv. Defendants have the same rights as those in other trial courts v. Majority of all minor criminal cases are decided in lower courts vi. Can be responsible for preliminary stages of felony cases vii. Arraignments, bail hearings, and preliminary hearings often take place in these lower courts viii. Also includes the justice of the peace and magistrate 193pg ix. Many states also may have specialty courts such as drug courts, gun courts, juvenile courts, domestic courts, and elder courts b. Trial courts of general jurisdiction i. May be called county courts, district courts, superior courts, or circuit courts ii. Courts of general jurisdiction have the authority to hear and decide cases involving many types of subject matter, and they are the setting for criminal trials c. State Courts of Appeals i. Every state has at least one court of appeals, which may be an intermediate appellate court or the state’s highest court ii. Decisions of each state’s highest court on all questions of state law are final iii. Only when issues of federal law or constitutional procedure are involved can the United States Supreme Court overrule a decision made by a state’s highest court The Federal Court System a. U. S. district courts i. Lowest tier of the federal court system ii. Courts in which cases involving federal laws begin, and a judge or jury decides the case iii. Every state has at least one federal district court, and there is one in the District of Columbia iv. Number of judicial districts varies over time, currently there are 94 b. U. S. courts of appeals i. Currently there are thirteen U. S. courts of appeals ii. Also referred to as “U. S. circuit courts of appeals” iii. Decisions of the circuit courts of appeals are final unless a further appeal is pursued and granted, then the matter is brought before the United States Supreme Court
c. The United States Supreme Court i. Reviews a very small percentage of the cases decided in the United States each year ii.
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- Summer '13
- Supreme Court of the United States, United States Supreme Court, Trial court