Distinguishing Features of the Major Court Systems
Criminal procedure can be complex, not only because of many factual questions that arise in day-day-police/citizen encounters but also because of the two-tiered structure of the United States court system. This two-tiered structure reflects the idea of dual sovereignty. The United States Legal system has been designed allow all citizens to receive a fair criminal trial regardless of social status, gender, race, and ethnic background. The system is composed by many confounding and complicated elements and processes. In the United States there are two parallel systems of courts: federal and state. Each is divided into trial courts and appellate courts. There are more than 200 statewide general and limited jurisdiction trial court systems in the United States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and more than 130 appellate courts on the state and federal levels. State appellate courts range in size from five to nine judges—most have a state court of last resort with seven members (Abadinsky, 2008). Our country has a two-tiered court structure consisting of federal and state courts. The fifty state court systems present a complex array of structures: No two state court systems are alike. There are two basic types of courts: those that try cases (trial courts) and those that consider cases only on appeal (appellate courts) from a trial court or a lower appellate court. (Abadinsky, 2008). While there are systems of trial and appellate courts in each state, most are not at all systematic. It is difficult to generalize about state courts. Some states, such as New York (Appendix A), present a confusing system of courts, often with overlapping jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is basic to understanding the organization of a court system. It is the geographic area, subject matter, or persons over which a court can exercise authority. The area of geographic jurisdiction is referred to as venue, and it can be limited to a...
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