Court System Structure, Function and Jurisdiction
Performance Assessment Task 4
Introduction to Criminal Justice
November 6, 2009
Over the years the U.S. court system has evolved into an intricately balanced legal process (Siegel, 354). The founding fathers of the nation considered an independent federal judiciary essential to ensure fairness and equal justice for all citizens of the United States. The American judicial system is made up of two separate court systems, the federal and the state. This structure was created by the U.S. Constitution and is called Federalism. Federalism refers to a sharing of powers between the national government and the state governments. The supremacy of each government in its own sphere is known as separate sovereignty, meaning each government is sovereign in its own right. Both the federal and state governments need their own court systems to apply and interpret their laws.
The federal court system is made up of two types of courts. The first type is courts that derive their power from Article III of the constitution. Included in this type are the U.S. district courts, U.S. circuit courts of appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court. There are also two special courts that are not general jurisdiction courts. These courts are the U.S. court of claims and the U.S. court of international trade. All judges of Article III courts are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the senate and serve life terms. The second types of courts are considered type 2 and are also established by congress. These courts are magistrate courts, bankruptcy courts, U.S. court of military appeals, U.S. tax courts and U.S. court of Veteran’s appeals. Magistrate and bankruptcy courts are attached to each U.S. district court. These judges are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the senate. They hold office for a set number of years, usually 15. U.S. court of military appeals, tax court and U.S. court of Veteran’s appeals are called Article I or legislative courts.
The first level, “trial courts”, in the federal system are the U.S. district courts. There are 94 of these courts in the United States and every state has at least one. Each district court has between 2 and 28 judges. These are trial courts, or courts or original jurisdiction and they hear both criminal and civil cases. Wisconsin is divided into 2 districts, East and West. The eastern district is divided into two divisions. One is located in Green Bay and the other is located in Milwaukee. There are 16 counties in the Green Bay division and 12 counties in the Milwaukee division. The Chief Judge of the Eastern district is Charles Clevert. The Western district is comprised of 44 counties and is located in Madison. Oneida County is part of the western district. This district has two judges, Chief Judge Barbara Crabb and Judge John Shabaz.
The next level in the federal court system is the U.S. circuit court of appeals. There are 13 of these courts in the United States. The U.S. is divided into 12 regional circuits that sit in various cities throughout the county. These courts examine trial record for only mistakes of law; the facts have already been determined by the U.S. district courts. The court of appeals will neither review the facts of the case nor take any additional evidence. When hearing cases, these courts usually sit in panels of three judges.
The apex of the federal court system is the U.S. Supreme Court. It is comprised of 9 judges known as justices, presided over by a Chief Justice. The U.S. Supreme Court is located in Washington D.C. People not satisfied with the decision of a U.S. circuit court of appeal (or in rare cases, of a U.S. District court) or a state supreme court can petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case. Each year the Supreme Court accepts between 100 and 150 of the 7,000 cases it is asked to hear. In order...
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