The United States’ judicial system is well-known and has been instituted for centuries, changing as it needs and to fit social morals. The dual court system is comprised of the federal court system and the state court system.
Courts at the federal level—the U.S Supreme Court being the head of courts at this level—is final word when it comes to laws in the country. Laws are pulled from the U.S Constitution and are the final word in whether or not a case or ruling is constitutional. The federal court level is made of three branches.
The original jurisdiction level of courts features several specialized courts such as 94 district courts, Alien Terrorist Removal Court, bankruptcy courts, Federal Claims, International Trade, Tax Court, Private Land Claims Court, and Intelligence Surveillance Court. The appellate courts hold both geographic appellate jurisdictions with eleven U.S courts of appeals and one for D.C as well as appellate jurisdiction over specific subjects such as Veterans Claims, Armed Forces, Federal Circuit, and so on.
When it comes to criminal cases, the federal courts tend to handle white collar crimes and very rarely violent crimes. When it does take on violent crimes, it’s usually disputes on reservations as well as acts of terrorism. The Supreme Court is the final word on the law and has domain over the affairs of both the appellate courts and original jurisdiction courts.
The state courts in the U.S have jurisdiction over disagreements within its particular state. They handle criminal cases and civil cases. The federal courts don’t come into play until the case calls for their supervision. The state courts have limited jurisdiction which is overseen by a magistrate or justice of the peace. Their main areas of focus are petty offenses and smaller civil cases. While there are also county courts, depending on the size of the city, there are city courts for traffic offenses, city ordinance, small civil claims, and other cases. Again, it really depends on the size of the city.
There are also alderman’s courts, juvenile courts, family courts, small claims, tax courts, recorder’s courts, and many others that cover a variety of cases within the state level. The courts of different, specific cases are different from general jurisdiction courts that can take on any case. In a way, general jurisdiction can serve a filter court for cases that go on to one of the specific courts. General jurisdiction courts tend to take on criminal cases of a serious nature (rape and murder) as well as felonies. Misdemeanors are taken up in jurisdiction courts.
In short, state courts and courts below the state level—but are still included with state courts—take on civil and criminal cases. They tend to take on violent crimes for the most part when it comes to criminal cases.
Simply put, federal court outranks state courts when state and federal law clash. The powers of these courts tend to overlap when it comes to state and Constitutional law.
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