Supreme Courts or High Courts that exist in all 50 states and typically have 5-9 justices who sit en banc (all together) and hear appeals from state courts of general jurisdiction or state intermediate appellate courts if the state has one; they have final interpretation on state law, and although technically, someone could appeal from this level to the U.S. Supreme Court, it rarely happens because few cases involve the Constitution or federal law. U.S. Circuit of Appeals : consist of 167 judges among 13 courts, dispersed regionally, twelve to look for judicial error in lower courts, and one that handles patents and when the U.S. government is a defendant; they have mandatory jurisdiction (must hear appeals) from lower courts, and appeals are either frivolous, ritualistic, or nonconsensual, with nonconsensual appeals sometimes settled as precedent at this level. State Intermediate Appellate Courts : exist in only 39 states to alleviate the burden on state courts of last resort; they have no trial jurisdiction and only hear appeals from state courts of general jurisdiction by reviewing trial transcripts and hearing occasional oral arguments; they have mandatory jurisdiction and must hear any legally appealed case; appellate judges usually sit in a panel of three to decide cases. U.S. District Courts : consist of 650 judges among 95 courts dispersed in every state and territory; they have original jurisdiction (conduct trials) over criminal violations of federal law, and are assisted by 369 U.S. Magistrates who handle pre-trial matters and may try minor offenders; some courts at this level have specific responsibilities; many have cases backlogged. State Trial Courts of General Jurisdiction : variously called superior, district, or circuit courts, they consist of about 3,000 state- funded courts which keep transcripts and hold felony trials; when states create specialized courts, such as drug courts, mental health courts, or community mediation centers, they can exist at this level or at a lower level. State Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction : variously called inferior, lower, city, municipal, country, or magistrate courts, they consist of about 13,000 courts most of which are funded by city or county governments (which sometimes mistakenly call them circuit or district courts), hearing traffic cases, ordinance violations, and criminal misdemeanors; no jury trials are held, and no transcripts are kept, requiring a trial de novo if an appeal is made. STATE COURTS: There are two basic facts about state court systems: (1) no two states are completely alike; and (2) you can't tell what a court does by its name. All states have trial courts devoted to criminal cases, but in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania that have a unified court system, the criminal courts are known as courts of common pleas; in
California , criminal courts are called superior courts; in New York as supreme courts; and in Michigan as recorder's courts. So, even narrowing our focus down to criminal courts is
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- Fall '09
- Alice in Wonderland, Supreme Court of the United States, Appellate court, Trial court, State court, U.S. Courts of Appeals