Тhe federal court system


The Constitution of the United States provides, "the judicial power of the United States shall bi vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as the Congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish". Judges in federal courts are appointed for life and can be removed only if impeached for gross misconduct by the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate.

The United States has 51 separate court systems. They include the federal court system, established and maintained by the national government, and the courts of the 50 states. Because of the separate state and federal systems, the United States is said to have a dual court system.

The federal court system is more limited in size and purpose than are the state courts. Federal courts have jurisdiction over five basic kinds of cases. They hear (1) cases in which the United States is a party and (2) cases involving foreign officials. In civil matters, if more than $10,000 is involved, the may also hear (3) cases with parties from different states, and (4) cases involving the Constitution of the United States and federal laws. Federal courts also hear (5) "federal specialties," cases involving patents, copyrights, or bankruptcies.

State courts share jurisdiction with federal courts in cases with parties from different states, and cases involving the Constitution of the United States and federal laws, and they exercise sole, or exclusive, jurisdiction in all other cases, mainly those involving state law. Only those state court decisions that involve the U.S. Constitution and federal law may be appealed to the federal courts.

The federal judicial system consists of the following courts:

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest appellate court for cases within federal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court holding sessions in Washington D.C., and consisting of nine judges. It is the court of final resort. It hears appeals on federal questions from circuit courts or the highest state courts, but it hears only such cases as it deems necessary to the public interest. The Court's decisions are binding on all other courts.

Courts of appeal, one for each of ten circuits, in the United States, are the courts of appellate jurisdiction. Each court of appeal has five or six judges. These courts were formerly called and, hence, are sometimes now referred to as'"circuit courts of appeal".

District courts have been set up in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia; there are 92 in all. Each of these courts, as a rule, has jurisdiction over a part or all of a state. A district court is a court in which proceedings under federal law begin. The federal district courts hear both civil and crimina' cases.

A court may consist of a judge and a jury or only a judge and a clerk, or it may be a tribunal including a number of judges. The words "judge" and "court" are sometimes loosely interchanged but they are not necessarily synonymous.

The state court systems are similar in structure, but they vary widely in specifics and nomenclature. The major trial court may be a circuit court in one state and a district cowl, or superior court, in another. Some courts derive their titles and functions from a past era and are not the result of systematic planning.

Most states haye a tier of trial courts with limited or special jurisdiction, such as justice-of-the-peace courts or juvenile cowls. Courts having jurisdiction over cases involving minor criminal offenses may also conduct preliminary hearings for more serious crimes to be tried in higher trial courts. These limited-jurisdiction courts often receive most oftheir financial support from local governments.

Next is a level of general-jurisdiction trial courts that hear the full range of serious cases and often appeals in minor cases from lower courts.

Finally, each state has courts with mainly appellate jurisdiction. Every state has a supreme court, although it is not always called by that name; about half of the states have intermediate appellate courts below the level oftheir highest courts.

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