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The Court System. Trial Courts Trial courts listen to testimony, consider evidence, and decide the facts in disputed situations Evidence is provided by.

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Presentation on theme: "The Court System. Trial Courts Trial courts listen to testimony, consider evidence, and decide the facts in disputed situations Evidence is provided by."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Court System

2 Trial Courts Trial courts listen to testimony, consider evidence, and decide the facts in disputed situations Evidence is provided by witnesses who are called to testify in the case

3 Parties In a trial court there are two parties In a civil trial, the party who brings the legal action is called the plaintiff In a criminal trial, the government(state or federal) initiates the case and serves as the prosecutor In both civil and criminal trials, the party responding to the plaintiff or prosecutor is called the defendant

4 Adversarial System This system is used in the United States This means that there is a contest between the opposing sides, or adversaries The theory is that the Judge or jury will be able to determine the truth based on the opposing arguments. The side who is able to show weakness in the other side’s case usually win

5 Inquisitional System This is used in some European countries In this system, the judge is active in questioning the witnesses and controlling the court process, including gathering and presenting evidence. These judges can order witnesses to appear, conduct searches, present and comment on evidence, and in general take the lead role in trying to uncover the truth

6 Judges They are an essential part of our legal system Judges preside over the trial and has the duty to protect the rights of those involved They make sure that the attorneys follow the rules of evidence and trial procedure In non-jury trials, the judge, determines that facts of the case and render a judgment. In jury trials the judge is required to instruct the jury as to the law involved in the case.

7 Jury The sixth amendment the US Constitution guarantees the right to the trial by jury in criminal cases. This right applies to both federal and state courts The seventh amendment guarantees a right to trial by jury in civil cases in federal court. In a civil case either the plaintiff or the defendant may request a jury

8 Jury continued… To serve on a jury: – You must be a US citizen – At least 18 years old – Able to speak and understand English – A resident of the state – Convicted felons are usually ineligible for jury service unless their civil rights have been restored

9 Jury continued… Once selected jurors are assigned to specific cases after being screened through a process known as the Voir dire examination – In this process, opposing lawyers question each perspective juror to discover any prejudices or preconceived opinions concerning the case.

10 Jury continued… Any juror who appears incapable of rendering a fair and impartial verdict is removed – Removal for cause Each attorney is allowed a limited number of peremptory challenges – This is the ability to have a prospective juror removed without stating a cause

11 Appeals Court In an appeals court, one party presents arguments asking the court to review the decision of the trial court The other party presents and argument supporting the decision of the trial court There are no juries or witnesses and no new evidence is presented

12 Who can appeal? Not everyone who loses a trial can appeal An appeal is only possible when there is an error of law – This occurs when the judge makes a mistake as to the law applicable in the case

13 Written Opinions When an appeals court decides a case, it issues a written opinion. This opinion sets precedent for similar cases to follow in the future – Precedent sets the standard or serves as an example for lower courts to follow Judges who disagree with the majority opinion may write a dissenting opinion Judges who agree with the majority opinion may write a concurring opinion

14 Precedent Case Examples Plessey v. Ferguson Brown v. Board of Education

15 State and Federal Courts State courts – These are courts of general jurisdiction – They hear cases that deal with state law as well as many areas in federal law. Federal courts – These are courts of limited jurisdiction – They hear criminal and civil cases involving federal law. – They also hear some civil cases involving parties from different states when the amount in dispute is more than $75,000

16 State and Federal Court Continue… – Federal courts are known as U.S District Courts – The U.S has 94 district courts and 13 circuit court

17 State Courts All States have trial courts They are called superior, county, district, or municipal courts, depending on the state They deal with specific legal like family, traffic, criminal, probate and small claims Criminal court is divided into felony and misdemeanor

18 Federal Courts Article III of the U.S Constitution gives Congress the power to create lower courts – Congress has divided the country into 94 federal judicial districts, with each having a federal trial court – Each district has a U.S Bankruptcy court – Approximately 70 percent of the cases filed in federal court each year are bankruptcy cases

19 State and Federal Court Continue… Overall federal courts handle about 1,000,000 cases per year State courts handle about 30,000,000 cases per year There are roughly 1,700 federal judges and 30,000 state judges who decide these cases

20 Tribal Court Several hundred Indian tribal groups govern reservations in the United States Some tribal powers that remain on the reservation are called inherent powers – These are powers that regulate family relationships, tribal membership, and law and order. Some tribal powers that was granted by Congress are called delegated powers – These are powers that allow environmental regulation

21 Tribal Court Continue.. Tribal courts can hear both civil and criminal cases for Native Americans on the reservation Tribal Court resemble the Anglo-American court system. However Tribal courts can not fine more than $5000 or imprison for more than 1year. The Supreme court has ruled that Tribal courts can no long persecute crimes done by non- native Americans on the reservation.

22 The Supreme Court The Supreme court of the US is the highest court in the land There are nine justices on the Supreme court Justices vote by a majority rule Of the 8000 cases appealed to the Supreme court, only about 80 are heard – Only a few of these petitions for certiorari (a request of the lower court to send up its records) are granted by the Supreme court.

23 Supreme Court Continue… If the party appealing( usually the loosing party) get 4 of the 9 justices to agree to hear the case then the petition for certiorari is granted Each side has 30 minutes to present their argument When there is a case involving the federal government, the solicitor general represents the US government.

24 The court terms begins on the first Monday of each October In a typical year, 75 percent of cases heard are from the federal government and the remaining comes from the state court system Supreme court justices are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Supreme court justices are appointed for life

25 Most of society most controversial cases have ended up before the Supreme court – Death penalty, abortion, civil rights, etc The Supreme court has the power to reverse the ruling of previous supreme courts.


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