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United States Court System - Research Paper Example

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The American court system is usually called an ‘adversarial system’ because justice can be attained when lawyers stand for competing legal groups—the defense and the prosecution—vying in court to establish the facts and come up with the most fair decision…
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United States Court System
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Download file to see previous pages In spite of the belief that the adversarial system is a contest between two rivals, in reality a complex system of collaboration between judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers is usually present. In the U.S. court system, members of the courtroom work team create guidelines about how specific kinds of cases must be dealt with and what type of petitions is legitimate for particular kinds of offenses (May et al., 2007, 159). At present, the United States implements a dual system of state and federal courts that often work autonomously, even though state cases are often petitioned to the federal courts.
The dual court system developed from the belief of the founding fathers that every state has to have substantial judicial sovereignty and legislative power (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2012, 105). The federal court system emerged after the nation gained its independence from England. The existing federal court system emerged as a concession between the founding fathers who preferred a powerful federal government and those who supported the rights of the states with a restricted federal government. At present, there are several independent court systems in the United States. Even though some American Indian communities and the military have their own court systems, the general U.S. court systems are the state court systems and the federal court systems (May et al., 2007, 161-162). Figure 1. Structure of the federal court system (May et al., 2007, 162) Even though state court systems emerged with almost no interaction with other states’ court systems, the state court systems that ultimately progressed noticeably resemble one another in structure and organization. Almost all court systems at present are structured in a hierarchical way (Cole et al., 2012, 363). The first major characteristic to remember when looking at state court systems is the difference between courts with appellate jurisdiction and courts with original jurisdiction. Because cases come from them, trial courts are usually called ‘courts of limited jurisdiction’. These courts handle cases of misconduct or less serious offenses, cases of small claims, family disputes, and traffic disobedience. These courts seldom conduct jury trials and rely greatly on the judge for the final resolution (Neubauer & Fradella, 2010, 95). Courts of general jurisdiction handle both felonies and misconduct cases and function as a round-table for major civil actions. Courts of general jurisdiction, in numerous states, facilitate the first appellate level and give the accused who came from a court of limited jurisdictions the opportunity to open up another trial. These courts employ prosecutors, defense attorneys, witnesses, juries, and all the other players usually connected to American courtrooms (Walston-Dunham, 2008, 147). These courts are more formal than courts of limited jurisdiction. They operate under the adversarial framework. The intermediate appellate court level—court of appeals-- is the subsequent level in state court systems. The main task of these courts is to evaluate petitions that came from resolutions given in the courts of general jurisdiction. The topmost court level in every state system is the court of last resort—the Supreme Court (Cole et al., 2012, 364-365). A petition can progress no further after the Supreme Court gives ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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