<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the dual court system and its three tiers
  • Explain how you are protected and governed by different U.S. court systems
  • Compare the positive and negative aspects of a dual court system

Before the writing of the U.S. Constitution and the establishment of the permanent national judiciary under Article III, the states had courts. Each of the thirteen colonies had also had its own courts, based on the British common law model. The judiciary today continues as a dual court system    , with courts at both the national and state levels. Both levels have three basic tiers consisting of trial court     s , appellate court     s , and finally courts of last resort, typically called supreme courts, at the top ( [link] ).

A chart that demonstrates the structure of the dual court system. At the top of the chart is a box labeled “U.S. Supreme Court”. There are boxes below it on either side, arranged in the shape of a triangle. On the left hand side of the triangle are two boxes. From bottom to top, the boxes are labeled “U.S. District Courts” and “U.S. Federal Courts.” An arrow points from the top of the box labeled “U.S. District Courts” to the box labeled “U.S. Federal Courts”. An arrow points from the top of the box labeled “U.S. Federal Courts” to the box labeled “U.S. Supreme Court”. On the right hand side of the triangle are three boxes. From bottom to top, the boxes are labeled “State Trial Courts”, “Intermediate Appellate Courts”, and “State Supreme Courts”. An arrow points from the top of the box labeled “State Trial Courts” to the bottom of the box labeled “Intermediate Appellate Courts”. An arrow points from the top of the box labeled “Intermediate Appellate Courts” to the bottom of the box labeled “State Supreme Courts”. An arrow points from the top of the box labeled “State Supreme Courts” to the bottom of the box labeled “U.S. Supreme Court”.
The U.S. judiciary features a dual court system comprising a federal court system and the courts in each of the fifty states. On both the federal and state sides, the U.S. Supreme Court is at the top and is the final court of appeal.

To add to the complexity, the state and federal court systems sometimes intersect and overlap each other, and no two states are exactly alike when it comes to the organization of their courts. Since a state’s court system is created by the state itself, each one differs in structure, the number of courts, and even name and jurisdiction. Thus, the organization of state courts closely resembles but does not perfectly mirror the more clear-cut system found at the federal level.

Bureau of International Information Programs, United States Department of State. Outline of the U.S. Legal System . 2004.
Still, we can summarize the overall three-tiered structure of the dual court model and consider the relationship that the national and state sides share with the U.S. Supreme Court, as illustrated in [link] .

Cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court come from two primary pathways: (1) the circuit courts, or U.S. courts of appeals (after the cases have originated in the federal district courts), and (2) state supreme courts (when there is a substantive federal question in the case). In a later section of the chapter, we discuss the lower courts and the movement of cases through the dual court system to the U.S. Supreme Court. But first, to better understand how the dual court system operates, we consider the types of cases state and local courts handle and the types for which the federal system is better designed.

Courts and federalism

Courts hear two different types of disputes: criminal and civil. Under criminal law    , governments establish rules and punishments; laws define conduct that is prohibited because it can harm others and impose punishment for committing such an act. Crimes are usually labeled felonies or misdemeanors based on their nature and seriousness; felonies are the more serious crimes. When someone commits a criminal act, the government (state or national, depending on which law has been broken) charges that person with a crime, and the case brought to court contains the name of the charging government, as in Miranda v. Arizona discussed below.

Miranda v. Arizona , 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
On the other hand, civil law    cases involve two or more private (non-government) parties, at least one of whom alleges harm or injury committed by the other. In both criminal and civil matters, the courts decide the remedy and resolution of the case, and in all cases, the U.S. Supreme Court is the final court of appeal.

Questions & Answers

what is government
Seth Reply
why is today's government so corrupt?
Julius Reply
what type of government does American practice?
Joshua Reply
what type of government does American practice
Joshua
Representative Democracy
Digital
what is communalism
Yarhere Reply
suppression of the people and their rights.
Julius
Help me understand this please. Looks ok please 🙏 🙏 please
debbie Reply
which political party has had the most sucess
Damion Reply
In what ways can the media change the way a citizen thinks about government?
Justin Reply
advertisement
Cowboy
Which of the following is not an agent of political socialization?
Vanessa Reply
What is government
AHMED Reply
how is the legislative work ?
Abdurahim Reply
law making
Cowboy
When acting as an agenda setter, the media
Brooke Reply
How do you know the answer to a question?
Nikaela Reply
which was not a third party challenger
Jonna Reply
the system of government in the United States is best described as?
Gabrielle Reply
a government for the people by the people
Jimmy
Which of the following was not a third-party challenger? a. Whig Party b. Progressive Party c. Dixiecrats d. Green Party
sonu Reply

Get the best American government course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'American government' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask