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THE COURT SYSTEMS Chapter 2. Organization of the Court Systems Both state and federal court systems have –Lower courts: Courts of Original Jurisdiction.

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Presentation on theme: "THE COURT SYSTEMS Chapter 2. Organization of the Court Systems Both state and federal court systems have –Lower courts: Courts of Original Jurisdiction."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE COURT SYSTEMS Chapter 2

2 Organization of the Court Systems Both state and federal court systems have –Lower courts: Courts of Original Jurisdiction Where disputes are initially brought and tried Generally known as trial courts Look at issues of fact –Appellate Courts: Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction Where lower court decisions are reviewed Look at issues of law

3 Federal and State Judges Federal and State Judges State Judges –Judges chosen by variety of methods –Unlike federal court, most state judges serve fixed terms –Bias? Evidence indicates that for elected judges the average judgment in tort cases are larger and out-of- state companies are treated more poorly than in states with appointed judges. Federal Judges –Federal judges are nominated by the President –Confirmed by a majority vote in US Senate –Lifetime appointment –May be removed from office only if Congress impeaches them (intricate impeachment process and rarely happens) –Job security guarantees that judges are independent and free from political pressure

4 Judicial Immunity A judge is absolutely –Immune from suit for damages for judicial acts taken within his/her jurisdiction. –Applies even if action is excessive/malicious –Purpose: Judges are not concerned with the relative power parties who appear in court. –Purpose: To protect the system from undue influence on judicial decision-making –See Davis v. West

5 Davis v. West Houston Reporting Service (HRS) provided court reporting services for attorney Davis who failed to pay HRS. It sued for $ (deposition fee), plus attorney’s fees, interest, costs. Davis did not defend – judge entered a default judgment HRS began collection efforts Court appointed Radoff as receiver in the case Issued an order commanding Radoff to take possession of “all.. monies in deposit [by Davis] in financial institutions....” Radoff sent letter to attorney asking for payment. Radofff sent letter to Davis’s bank demanding that the bank turn over $4, to Radoff. Bank did. Judgment satisfied; HRS was paid; receivership closed. Davis sued Radoff for abuse of process Trial court granted summary judgment for Radoff, as he was entitled to derived judicial immunity. Davis appealed. (Continued)

6 Davis v. West, cont. Held: Affirmed. Radoff is cloaked with derived judicial immunity Derived judicial immunity by a person is same as absolute immunity for judges. Judicial immunity can attach to certain non-judges when judges delegate their authority, appointing another to perform services for the court (as an “officer of the court”). Texas uses the “functional approach”– Looks “whether the person seeking immunity is intimately associated with the judicial process Also “that person exercises discretionary judgment comparable to that of the judge Functional approach focuses on nature of the job performed & if persons’ conduct is like delegating judge. Radoff is “cloaked with derived judicial immunity” Every action “good or bad, honest or dishonest, well-intentioned or not” is immune as applied to the judicial function undertaken

7 The Federal Court System Federal District Court –Courts of original jurisdiction –Use juries or judge as “trier of fact” –Trial courts deal in issues of fact –Federal trial courts also use judicial officers called “magistrates” –94 federal districts in the court system US Court of Appeals –12 courts –Usual rule: There is the right to appeal to this court –3 judge panels deal in issues of law and review most decisions –En banc proceeding means all active judges in a circuit will a hear a case Specialized Federal Courts –Limited jurisdiction –I.e. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit--takes appeals from U.S. District Court in patent, trademark and copyright cases U.S. Court of Federal Claims U.S. Court of International Trade U.S. Tax Court See Exhibit 2.2

8 The U.S. Supreme Court Highest court in the country Appellate review court Cases usually heard by 9 justices Term begins First Monday in October in Washington, D.C. Reviews cases from –US District Courts –US Courts of Appeals –Highest Courts of the States Review is through Writ of Certiorari –Often deals with Constitutional decisions –If writ not granted, lower court decision is final

9 The Typical State Court System State court of “Original Jurisdiction” –Where case is first brought; deals in issues of fact –Usually called District Court (but in NY, is called the “Supreme Court”) State court of Appellate Jurisdiction –Deals with appeals and issues of law –Usually called Court of Appeals –Can have different names (District Court of Appeals in FL; Appellate Division in NY State Supreme Court –Second appellate review dealing w/ issues of law if state has intermediate appeals court

10 Rules of Civil Procedure ( In United States Code, Title 28) Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: Govern procedural aspects of litigation –Pleadings –Discovery –Trial procedures –Relevant motions States are free to develop their own procedural rules –Most adopt the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or rules very similar to them See “Test Yourself”, p. 36

11 Subject Matter Jurisdiction Federal Courts Federal court jurisdiction is derived from the US Constitution Federal courts may hear cases involving a federal questions –Cases in which the US is a party to the suit –Cases involving citizens of different states Diversity of citizenship jurisdictionDiversity of citizenship jurisdiction Amount in Controversy is more than $75,000Amount in Controversy is more than $75,000 No $ amount for cases involving federal lawNo $ amount for cases involving federal law

12 Jurisdiction Right of a court to hear & decide the caseJurisdiction: Right of a court to hear & decide the case A number of courts may have jurisdiction over a given caseA number of courts may have jurisdiction over a given case Need jurisdiction over theNeed jurisdiction over the subject matter Need jurisdiction over eitherNeed jurisdiction over either persons or property If jurisdiction is lacking, judgment is null & voidIf jurisdiction is lacking, judgment is null & void

13 Subject Matter Jurisdiction State Courts A particular court resolves a particular subject matter: –Wills & Trusts: Probate Court –Divorces, Child Custody: Domestic Court –Municipal Matters: Municipal Court –Small Claims Court - Limited claims of usually $5000 or less, sometimes up to $7,500 will be heard If there is not a particular subject matter, case goes to general trial court Courts of original jurisdiction--where case is first brought Courts of appellate jurisdiction--where lower court decisions are reviewed If there is no jury, judge decides the facts General right to appeal to at least one higher court

14 Personal Jurisdiction In Personam Jurisdiction Over the person, usually through –Summons through service of process or substituted service –Residency –Doing business in the state –Submission to the jurisdiction See Exhibit 2.4 Out of state defendants –Jurisdiction is more difficult –Serve them while in the state –May not “trick” them to get into the state for service of process

15 Jurisdiction Over Out-of-State Business Defendants Long-arm Statutes –Aimed at non-resident businesses –Protects states’ citizens from business defendants who do business in the state and then leave the state –See Exhibit 2.5 re: Long-Arm Statute

16 Territorial Jurisdiction “Minimum Contacts” Sales/branch office is “transacting business” within the state Landmark case--International Shoe Company v. Washington ( Supreme Court, 1945) Legal contact -- legal “nexus” Examples of “minimum contacts” in a state: –Sales representative(s) –Selling product –Advertising –Placing product in specific markets See Blimka v. My Web Wholesaler, LLC See “Can Your Firm Be Reached?”

17 Blimka v. My Web Wholesaler, LLC My Web Wholesalers (of Maine) does business on the Internet. Blimka (of Idaho) surfed the net, found My Web and called DePalma, a My Web manager. Ordered 26,500 pairs of jeans for $20,935 and wired money. Shipment of 16,000 jeans arrived. Blimka called My Web to complain about quality. No satisfaction. Blimka sued My Web and DePalma for fraud in Idaho court. Process was served on them in Maine. No response by defendants; court issued a judgment against both, holding it had jurisdiction. They appealed. HELD: Affirmed. Idaho court has jurisdiction. Defendants’ actions invoked the use of the Idaho long-arm statute. Defendants’ purposeful false misrepresentation directed into Idaho created minimum contacts with Idaho that does not offend 14 th Amendment “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice”. Blimka awarded attorney fees and costs.

18 Jurisdiction Based On Power Over Property In rem jurisdiction –The dispute between the parties is over property –Where property is located creates jurisdiction –Whether the defendant-property owner is within the jurisdiction does not matter –Tangible property creates in rem jurisdiction--i.e. real estate, personal property –Intangible property creates in rem- -i.e. bank accounts, stocks –If property is removed to another state, no in rem jurisdiction Quasi in rem jurisdiction –Defendant’s property is attached to pay for unrelated matter –Ownership of property within the state is basis of jurisdiction –Decision in quasi in rem binds the parties themselves –Property can be either real estate or personal –Property can be either tangible or intangible

19 Exclusive Jurisdiction (Over certain cases. In other disputes jurisdiction may be either in federal or state court systems.) Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over some matters Examples: –Federal crimes –Bankruptcy –Patents –Copyrights –Federal questions Congress can specify by statute exclusive jurisdiction in federal courts State courts have exclusive jurisdiction over some matters Examples: –Divorce –Adoption –Matters controlled by state government Supremacy of federal law—state jurisdiction cannot infringe on federal jurisdiction

20 Concurrent Jurisdiction Federal and state courts have exclusive jurisdiction over some matters; however, Sometimes both state & federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction Then plaintiff may bring suit in either court system If plaintiff chooses state court, defendant has right to remove to federal court (right of removal in diversity of citizenship cases) If plaintiff files suit in defendant’s home state court, defendant cannot move case to federal court.

21 ***Applying Appropriate Law in Federal Court Issue: When there is diversity of citizenship, which substantive law should the federal court apply? Ex: Smith & Jones have contract dispute; Smith is from Arizona; Jones from California. Which law applies? See Erie v. Tompkins

22 Erie RR Co. v. Tompkins (1938) Which Law Applies? Protruding object from train injures Tompkins Tompkins--PA citizen Erie--incorporated in NY Accident--in PA If federal common law applies: Erie is liable If PA common law: Tompkins trespassed & Erie is not liable Held: Concept of federal common law in diversity of citizenship cases is ended. Courts will apply state law. PA law applies. Tompkins is a trespasser. Erie is not liable.

23 Applying Appropriate Law in State Court Incidents of the case take place in more than one state Conflict of laws or choice of law rules apply Rules vary according to nature of dispute, i.e. –Contract cases: Laws of state in which contract was made will be applied –Tort cases: Laws of state where tort takes place –States try to look at interests of the parties, gov’t, policies General rule: Laws apply for state that has the most “significant interest” See Williamson Pounder Architects v. Tunica County, Miss.

24 Williamson Pounder Architects PC v. Tunica County, Miss. Tunica County hired Williamson, a Tennessee company, to design a park. County employees decided park job should expand from $18 to $22 million. Orally approved by County Administrator. Later, Williamson billed County for extra work. County Board of Supervisors refuse to pay—they did not authorize extra work by a vote as required by state law. Williamson sues for breach of contract in federal court—diversity of citizenship. Contract states that Tennessee law would apply (choice-of-law clause). County claims Mississippi law applies as state law requires state contracts to be under state law. Federal district court agrees with County and dismisses suit. Williamson appeals to federal appeals court. It affirms. In Mississippi the “center of gravity” of a case is most important to determine jurisdiction. In Mississippi, oral contracts cannot be formed or enforced against counties. Mississippi public policy controls; Tennessee law (which would likely produce opposite result) does not apply.

25 Venue Venue: Appropriate geographical location of the court that has jurisdiction In controversial or well-publicized cases, defendants will ask for change of venue Doctrine of forum non conveniens - a special venue doctrine: Either party may request a change of venue to a more convenient court that could hear the case. Court will consider such issues as –Where actions of case take place –Where witnesses are located –Unfair burdens to parties


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