Court System Structure I

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The Constitution invests the judicial power of the U.S. in the federal court system. Federal courts consist of three levels of courts. District courts are the federal courts of original jurisdiction, the U.S. Court of Appeals is the intermediary appellate court, and the U.S. Supreme Court is the highest federal court. There are 94 district courts and 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals. Those dissatisfied with the outcome of a case heard from the district courts can take it to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Cases are brought to the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision and serves as the final arbiter of federal constitutional questions. Federal courts hear cases that involve the constitutionality of a law, cases dealing with the laws and treaties of the U.S., disputes between states, admiralty law, bankruptcy, and ambassadors and public ministers. The Constitution and state laws establish the state courts. There are 50 separate and independent state systems and one for the District of Columbia. Alaska’s system has four tiers in their state court system. The lowest courts are the courts of limited jurisdiction or district courts. They hear cases for traffic, small claims cases, misdemeanors, and conduct preliminary hearings. The second level is the courts of general jurisdiction or superior courts. Superior courts hear felony, juvenile, and civil cases. The third level is the intermediate appellate courts or courts of appeals. They hear the majority of the Alaska’s appeals. The highest court is called the Supreme Court of Alaska. Only certain cases are eligible for review by the U.S. Supreme Court after all court levels have been exhausted through state systems. There are also courts that handle specific legal matters such as juvenile courts, probate courts, and family courts. Most criminal case, probate, contract cases, tort cases, family law, etc. are heard by the state. State courts are the final arbiters of state laws and constitutions but their interpretation of federal...
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