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US Court System Organization

The court system organization in the US consists of the apex Supreme courts and more than 100 federal courts. The courts are responsible for solving the civil cases as well as criminal cases. In US Court System Organization , in the criminal cases, it is the court that decides if an accused (a person responsible for breaking the law) is innocent or guilty. It is either the prosecution or a government body that brings criminal cases to court. For civil cases, the disagreement on various issues like divorce, broken contracts, auto accidents are settled by the court. It is the plaintiff or aggrieved parties that have complaints against other parties who brings the matter to the court.

The organization of court system in the US is not a very complicated one. The US government has two distinct faces - federal (national) and state. Akin to this, there are two judicial systems. One of it is the state governments' established state and local courts. The other part of it is the Supreme and federal court which has been shaped by Congress. The constitution of the United States decided on the powers and scope of the federal court. The judicial division of the federal government is the organization of the federal court system. These federal courts are public institutions that are responsible to provide justice in a fair and an efficient way. The federal judges are selected by the President. The Senate then approves the selection.

Comprehensive US Court System Organization Information


Organization of the federal court system consists of three levels similar to a cone upside down. The highest court is the Supreme Court of the United States, which sits at the top level. Below it are the thirteen United States Courts of Appeals and the Court of Military Appeals. The third level comprises of the 94 U.S. district courts and the specialized courts. Specialized courts provide judgement and supervision of offenders for particular problems such as substance abuse and domestic violence. The difference between specialized courts and traditional courts is that the former focuses on a particular type of offence or offender. Here the role of the judge is supervisory, involving close collaboration of other criminal justice components and social services agencies that work closely in case processing. Examples of specialized courts include drug courts, mental health courts, domestic violence courts and re-entry courts.

The three tier organization of federal court system has a two fold purpose. There might be errors in the decisions of the trial courts that can be corrected by the court of appeals. There are also cases where two or more lower courts have difference of opinions, for which there is the Supreme Court which can pass on a judgement on the same.
Under the purview of the federal courts are cases that are given to them by the Constitution. Also certain controversies that fall under Article III, Section 2 of the constitution are dealt in this US Court system organization . Article III, Section 2 of the constitution states the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts, which requires trial by jury in all criminal cases excluding impeachment cases. Federal courts have limited jurisdiction. Unlike general courts, federal courts can hear or pass judgement on cases that involve certain subject matter. The subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts extends to- Federal question jurisdiction which include cases under the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties, Ambassador jurisdiction that deals with cases involving public ministers, ambassadors and consuls, Admiralty jurisdiction deals with cases involving navigable waters, Federal party jurisdiction cases that deal with cases in which the United States is a party, cases between two or more states, Diversity jurisdiction that involves cases between citizens of different states, Land grants jurisdiction deals with cases between citizens of the same state claiming land under the grants of a different state. Federal courts also pass judgement on cases between a state and a foreign state, citizens of a state and citizens of a foreign state. It also includes cases of commerce among states. However it is the Congress that decides what jurisdiction the federal courts will have, based on the subject matter specified in Article III.

Federal courts are created by the United States Congress under the provision of the constitutional power mentioned in Article III and the specialized courts under the authority granted in Article I. The power vested in Article III is much greater and these courts are more independent of the Congress and the President than the Article I courts, to keep a check on the balance of power between the branches of the government.

The Supreme Court has placed some additional restrictions on the federal courts. These include, the doctrines of ripeness ,standing and mootness that prevent district courts from passing advisory opinions. Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and the abstention doctrine checks the power of the lower federal courts by limiting their power to affect the rulings made by the state courts, and the Erie doctrine according to which federal courts need to apply considerable amount of state laws to claims arising from the state.

These claims can be heard in federal courts under supplemental jurisdiction or under diversity jurisdiction. However, in case of certain difficult cases, the federal courts have to presume, how the issue would be decided by the state court or it may endorse the decision of the state court provided the state has such a procedure. Supreme Court is the only federal court that can issue proclamations of federal law that restricts state courts. On the other hand, decisions taken by the lower federal courts on issues pertaining to federal law are not obligatory

A county court is a court based in or with a jurisdiction covering one or more counties.

Each state court enlists the cases registered in its courts along with the relevant documents and file orders. Documented versions of appeals, petitions and judgments are worthy of further references and procedures and are officially maintained by clerk in the respective courts. The state courts generally handle cases that are mostly non-criminal in nature (civil and traffic) and therefore the state court records include documentation of these legal proceedings. The supreme courts of federal state have made it an order to reveal the cases to commoners as a public service. Thus, the relevant information of all state court records are available either from the court house or thorough the Internet.

Today, the online accessing of court records that is hugely beneficial to the people. You can access court papers within minutes sitting in front of your computers at either free of charge or at a small price. These websites are a trusted domain and therefore one can rely on the authenticity of information procured from these websites, especially the government websites which are updated every single day. The court records contain the details of the trial sessions and the final hearing apart from the convicted name, personal details, offenses, etc.

These records are hugely important and extensively used as reference material for people including historians, scholars, researchers and court officials. People also seek to these records especially when they need to conduct a background check for a property or an individual, or appealing in higher courts. They become all the more relevant when one is seeking to buy a property or hire or employ an individual. Individuals who have been sentenced to probation may request for a deletion of their criminal record after they have served their sentence.

The total number of city courts in the country stands at 94. The city courts are the general trial courts for different cities In America. They have the authority and power to deal with both criminal and civil cases. In the US legislature hierarchy, city courts lie at the bottom. Most legal disputes start off at the city courts before moving up the judiciary ladder. Unlike the United States Supreme Court that was established by Article-III of the constitution the city courts were established by the congress. Sometimes people tend to neglect the volume of work city courts do. To give you a rough estimate, government's court repository indicate city courts disposing off approximately 43,000 cases in the year 2008 alone.

Access to trial court record varies from one state to another and there are several trial courts that have their online access facility to court records or up to date information on court cases through the list of statewide judiciaries or through court websites, respectively and exclusively. Most of the websites have implemented latest search methods to make their search options maximum effective and user friendly and resourceful as well. Most of the websites having public records in them facilitates their search option by making net wise links between trial courts of individual as well as state wise trial courts and government agencies.