Presentation on theme: "Chapter 7 The American Court Structure The Law of the Land Supreme Court."— Presentation transcript:
The American Court Structure
The Law of the Land Supreme Court
Dual American judicial system is split between states and federal,
Authority and Jurisdiction are determined by law, territory and type of case
Original jurisdiction: authority to hear the case when 1st brought to court.
Appellate Jurisdiction The court with the authority to review the case on appeal from the lower court for errors of law.
General Jurisdiction Court with the right or authority to hear any type of case
Special Jurisdiction The right or authority of a court to hear cases with regard to a particular subject matter, territory or persons
Dual Court System District courts Circuit Courts of Appeals Supreme Court of the United States Courts of limited jurisdiction Trial courts of General Jurisdiction Intermediate Courts of Appeals Appellate Courts of Last Resort Federal Courts State Courts
Federal Court authority comes from Constitution
Federal Court Jurisdiction Subject matter jurisdiction based on treaties with foreign countries or interpretations of the Constitution Cases involving admiralty or maritime law Personal jurisdiction if ambassadors or other government representatives are involved
Federal Courts in each state 94 district courts divided into 13 circuits
Judges appointed for life and make about $133,600.00 a year most cases are civil U S District Courts
is appellant to District courts Circuit Courts of Appeal review is for errors of law, not of fact appeal is a matter of right, the court cannot refuse to hear appeal
court of last resort can hear criminal appeals when there is a question of constitutional law US Supreme Court
cannot rule on issues of state law 9 justices appointed for life by the President make between 160,00 and 175,000.00 US Supreme Court
has original jurisdiction over cases between the states criminal cases are heard based on certiorari US Supreme Court
general power to hear most types of cases handle the most criminal cases and day to day legal matters State Courts
system is different state to state, no two are alike usually divided into four levels State Courts
Trial court with limited jurisdiction Trial court with general jurisdiction Intermediate appellate courts State courts of last resort
Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction approximately 13,000 “inferior trial courts” City, JP, county courts Not really part of the state’s system funded by local government
Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction conduct “summary trials” low penalties no transcript of trial, not court of record Appeals are de novo, must be heard in trial because there is no transcript
Called district courts, superior courts authority to try all civil and criminal cases and hear appeals from lower courts Courts of General Jurisdiction
Some states have created specialty courts to deal with increased cases of drug and mental health.
Appellate Courts Can a defendant appeal his conviction to a higher court? A defendant can appeal his conviction to an appellate court in hopes of having his conviction reversed. An appellate court reviews only the typed record of what happened in the trial court. Witnesses do not appear and testify at the appellate level. In many instances a defendant may remain free on bond while the appeal is pending. A defendant can appeal his conviction to an appellate court in hopes of having his conviction reversed. An appellate court reviews only the typed record of what happened in the trial court. Witnesses do not appear and testify at the appellate level. In many instances a defendant may remain free on bond while the appeal is pending.
Intermediate Appellate Courts busy states have created an intermediate appellate court have no trial jurisdiction have no trial jurisdiction hear only appeals hear only appeals charged with reviewing a case for errors of law and legal procedure, cannot refuse to hear charged with reviewing a case for errors of law and legal procedure, cannot refuse to hear
State Courts of Last Resort Usually the state’s Supreme Court Usually the state’s Supreme Court Texas has 2, one for criminal and one for civil Texas has 2, one for criminal and one for civil primary responsibility to hear appeals primary responsibility to hear appeals like the Supreme Court, has discretion in which cases it hears like the Supreme Court, has discretion in which cases it hears has some original jurisdiction has some original jurisdiction
Purposes of Courts to do justice to do justice to appear to do justice to appear to do justice to provide a forum where disputes can be resolved to provide a forum where disputes can be resolved to ensure wrongdoing to ensure wrongdoing to incapacitate those found guilty of crime to incapacitate those found guilty of crime to punish those found guilty of crime to punish those found guilty of crime to rehabilitate those found guilty of crime to rehabilitate those found guilty of crime to deter others from violating the law to deter others from violating the law to determine legal status to determine legal status to protect individuals against an arbitrary government to protect individuals against an arbitrary government
To Charge and Prosecute? A crime must have been committed A crime must have been committed An actor must have been identified An actor must have been identified There must be sufficient evidence to support guilty verdict There must be sufficient evidence to support guilty verdict should not over charge suspect should not over charge suspect should not prosecute only to satisfy public should not prosecute only to satisfy public should not be influenced by personal or political advantage should not be influenced by personal or political advantage
Why do some cases get dismissed? not sufficient evidence If the assistant criminal district attorney handling a case determines that there is not sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction, he may file a motion with the judge asking that the case be dismissed. This action is taken only after the case has been completely investigated, and normally after the police have exhausted all avenues for obtaining additional evidence. The judge may grant the motion to dismiss if he or she is satisfied that the case cannot be proven in a trial.
Funneling Effect 1000 felonies committed 500 are reported to the police 100 are arrested 30 are incarcerated, 15 for more than 1 year
The District Attorney' Office represents the State in all criminal cases that arise anywhere in the County. The only exceptions are low grade misdemeanors filed in Municipal Courts. Local Police Departments and the Sheriff's Department are the agencies that routinely investigate reports of criminal conduct. Criminal cases are then filed in Justice of the Peace Courts, County Courts at Law and District Courts. Once a case has been filed, prosecutors from the District Attorney's Office appear in these courts to represent the State of Texas and the victim of the crime. The duty of the prosecutor is to see that justice is achieved in the case. Prosecutors also assist police agencies on the legal aspects of criminal investigations and present evidence to county grand juries in felony cases. A prosecutor is assigned to the case from the time it is filed in court until it is disposed of by plea of guilty, trial or dismissal. The District Attorney's Office will continue to handle the case if it is appealed to a higher court. The chief prosecutor in the County is the elected Criminal District Attorney. Assistant Criminal District Attorneys help the District Attorney handle these cases. District Attorney Investigators assist the prosecutors with their cases. Officers of the Court- District Attorney
Harris County District Attorney At the close of 1992, the office of the District Attorney for Harris County, Texas, was processing serious criminal cases at the rate approaching 98,392 per year. As of January, 1993, there were some 200 Assistant District Attorneys and approximately the same number of support personnel in the form of investigators, secretaries, clerical and other administrative personnel. The 1992/1993 budget funded by the tax payers and authorized by Commissioners' Court will exceed $19,000,000.00. The District Attorney's Office consists of four major bureaus. Within each bureau are several divisions. Each bureau is headed by a Bureau Chief who reports to the District Attorney and is responsible for maintaining direct supervisory control over his designated area of responsibility. The four bureaus are: 1) Intake Bureau 2) Trial Bureau 3) Special Crimes Bureau 4) Legal Services Bureau Each of these bureaus is in turn sub-divided into smaller units called divisions and sections. The office is staffed and organized so as to facilitate the carrying out of its major function -- the representation of the State in criminal cases in the most just and efficient manner possible.
Prosecutor's reasons for not charging Belief that insufficient harm was caused Belief that insufficient harm was caused belief that the punishment is too sever for the crime belief that the punishment is too sever for the crime the case rubs their sense of justice the case rubs their sense of justice social violations of the law have gone unpunished before social violations of the law have gone unpunished before Victim refuses to testify Victim refuses to testify humanitarian concerns for the welfare of the victim or offender humanitarian concerns for the welfare of the victim or offender accused cooperates on another case accused cooperates on another case accused is wanted for prosecution of more serious crime accused is wanted for prosecution of more serious crime may be more cost effective to not prosecute may be more cost effective to not prosecute
Officers of the Court- Criminal Attorney mNot all attorneys are trained enough to specialize in Criminal Law mIt is not the place of the criminal attorney to determine the guilt or innocence of their client The attorney’s job is to PROVIDE THE BEST DEFENSE POSSIBLE FOR THEIR CLIENT
Officers of the Court- Criminal Attorney It is very difficult to make an adequate living as a Criminal Defense Lawyer mMany attorneys are court appointed to indigent persons (they commit more crime than the rich) mlawyers volunteer for this and are appointed from bar sheets or rotating list
Officers of the Court- Criminal Attorney “Big” attorneys only take “big” cases msome jurisdictions have staffs of public defenders that may be assigned courtrooms instead of individual clients
Officers of the Court- Defense Attorney Attorneys have many obligations to their client. must zealously defend the interests of the client respond to the client's concerns. keep the client informed about the status of the case and explain developments so that the client can make informed tactical decisions must abide by the client's decisions regarding the objectives of the representation
Officers of the Court- Defense Attorney may not divulge client communications without the client's consent Attorneys are officers of the court, and as such they must follow the law and obey ethical constraints. may not harass persons in the course of representation may not assist a client who they know will not tell the truth about the case should not begin a romantic affair with the client during the course of legal
Officers of the Court- Defense Attorney representation. In most states such behavior is an ethical violation. No attorney in any state may perform legal services in exchange for sexual relations.
The State Prosecuting Attorney is charged by statute with representing the state in all proceedings before the Court of Criminal Appeals. may also represent the state in criminal cases before the Courts of Appeals or assist a district or county attorney in representing the state before a Court of Appeals if requested to do so by the local prosecutor. In fiscal year 1993, the State Prosecuting Attorney filed 93 briefs and 33 petitions for discretionary review on the state's behalf with the Court of Criminal Appeals, and filed 48 motions for rehearing. In addition, the State Prosecuting Attorney monitors all opinions issued by the Court of Criminal Appeals and the 14 Courts of Appeals. Officers of the Court- State Attorney
The term "plea bargain" is unfortunate in that it is misleading to the public and implies that the defendant and his attorney have managed to have his charges reduced or receives a light sentence. A plea bargain is an agreement between the attorney representing the State and the defendant and his attorney that the State will recommend a specific punishment in the case, if the defendant will enter a plea of guilty. The agreement as to punishment is not binding upon the judge, who may impose any punishment within the range authorized by law. There are advantages to both the State and the defendant in arriving at such an agreement in many cases, however, most DA’s will not negotiate a plea for less punishment than a jury would likely set under the facts of the particular case. The Victim Impact Statement will be considered by the assistant criminal district attorney in entering into any plea bargain agreement.
After a person is held to answer by a magistrate, the court having jurisdiction to try the defendant shall have the jurisdiction to hear and decide all preliminary motions regarding bail and the amount. The prosecutor makes recommendation as to the amount of bail based on the seriousness of the crime. Bail is often used by prosecutor’s to encourage or pressure an accused to accept a plea bargain.
What is the purpose of bail? set by the judge guarantee the defendant's appearance may not be set so high as to punish Bail is allowed in virtually all cases, including felonies. The amount of bail is set by the judge. Its sole legal purpose is to guarantee the defendant's appearance in court for later proceedings. The judge is required to consider not only the seriousness of the offense charged against the defendant, but also the defendant's ability to raise money to make bail, in setting the amount. Bail may not be set so high as to punish a defendant by keeping him in jail pending his trial.
Smart, savvy and opinionated, the irrepressible Judge Judith Sheindlin holds court as presiding judge over real-life cases on the Emmy-nominated syndicated reality courtroom show, JUDGE JUDY. Having made a name for herself as a tough but fair judge in New York's Family Court, Judge Sheindlin retired from the bench in 1996 and segued to television to host the new series. Judge Sheindlin brings her trademark wit and wisdom to the successful half-hour series that takes viewers inside an actual courtroom where justice is dispensed at lightning speed. Judge Sheindlin's career in family court began in 1972 when she began prosecuting juvenile delinquency cases for the state of New York. Although an emotionally taxing job, Judge Sheindlin knew right away she had found her calling, quickly developing a reputation as a sharp, no-nonsense lawyer. In 1982, New York's then-Mayor, Edward Koch, appointed Judge Sheindlin to the bench as a Judge in the Family Court. Four years later, she was appointed the Supervising Judge in Manhattan and since then, she has heard over 20,000 cases in her career. A swift decision-maker with no tolerance for excuses, who regularly delivered memorable admonitions to defendants, Judge Sheindlin earned a reputation as one of New York's toughest judges. As one of the most outspoken judges in the country, Judge Sheindlin became the subject of a Los Angeles Times article in February 1993.
Many attorneys advance to become judges and other judicial workers. Judges apply the law and oversee the legal process in courts according to local, State, and Federal statutes. They preside over cases concerning every aspect of society, from traffic offenses to disputes over management of professional sports, or from the rights of huge corporations to questions of disconnecting life support equipment for terminally ill persons. They must ensure that trials and hearings are conducted fairly and that the court administers justice in a manner which safeguards the legal rights of all parties involved. The most visible responsibility of judges is presiding over trials or hearings and listening as attorneys represent the parties present.
Judges rule on the admissibility of evidence and the methods of conducting testimony, and they may be called upon to settle disputes between opposing attorneys. They ensure that rules and procedures are followed, and if unusual circumstances arise for which standard procedures have not been established, judges determine the manner in which the trial will proceed based on their interpretation of the law. Judges often hold pretrial hearings for cases. They listen to allegations and determine whether the evidence presented merits a trial. In criminal cases, judges may decide that persons charged with crimes should be held in jail pending their trial, or they may set conditions for release. In civil cases, judges occasionally impose restrictions upon the parties until a trial is held.
In many trials, juries are selected to decide guilt or innocence in criminal cases or liability and compensation in civil cases. Judges instruct juries on applicable laws, direct them to deduce the facts from the evidence presented, and hear their verdict. When the law does not require a jury trial or when the parties waive their right to a jury, judges decide the cases. In such cases, the judge determines guilt and imposes sentences in a criminal case; in civil cases, the judge rewards relief—such as compensation for damages—to the parties in the lawsuit (also called litigants). "in chambers." Judges also work outside the courtroom "in chambers." In their private offices, judges read documents on pleadings and motions, research legal issues, write opinions, and oversee the court’s operations. In some jurisdictions, judges also manage the courts’ administrative and clerical staff.
Judges’ duties vary according to the extent of their jurisdictions and powers. General trial court judges of the Federal and State court systems have jurisdiction over any case in their system. They usually try civil cases transcending the jurisdiction of lower courts and all cases involving felony offenses. Federal and State appellate court judges, Federal and State appellate court judges, although few in number, have the power to overrule decisions made by trial court or administrative law judges if they determine that legal errors were made in a case or if legal precedent does not support the judgment of the lower court. They rule on a small number of cases and rarely have direct contacts with litigants. Instead, they usually base their decisions on lower court records and lawyers’ written and oral arguments.
Many State court judges preside in courts in which jurisdiction is limited by law to certain types of cases. A variety of titles are assigned to these judges, but among the most common are municipal court judge, county court judge, magistrate, or justice of the peace. Traffic violations, misdemeanors, small claims cases, and pretrial hearings constitute the bulk of the work of these judges, but some States allow them to handle cases involving domestic relations, probate, contracts, and other selected areas of the law. Administrative law judges, sometimes called hearing officers or adjudicators, are employed by government agencies to make determinations for administrative agencies. They make decisions on a person’s eligibility for various Social Security benefits or worker’s compensation, protection of the environment, enforcement of health and safety regulations, employment discrimination, and compliance with economic regulatory requirements.
Judges are: Elected Selected Appointed are generally male and white upper middle class Protestant well educated and attended college in the same state over 50 years of age were in private legal practice before becoming a judge are judges where they grew up
Anatomy of a Prosecution From Arrest to Court
O VERVIEW OF THE CRIMI NAL JUSTICE PROCESS Observation or report of a crimeObservation or report of a crime InvestigationInvestigation ArrestArrest ProsecutionProsecution TrialTrial SentencingSentencing AppealAppeal Service of sentenceService of sentence ReleaseRelease
The Beginning of the Process The Beginning of the Process The criminal process most often begins with an arrest. An officer can arrest an individual only if probable cause exists.
The Initial Role of the Prosecutor The prosecutor will decide whether or not to proceed with the charges against the defendant. After arrest, the prosecutor will file a charge against the defendant if the prosecutor is satisfied that the evidence is sufficient to support the charge and that the case is worthy of prosecution.
The Grand Jury: A grand jury is a panel of persons chosen through strict court procedures to review a criminal investigation and, in some instances, to conduct criminal investigations. Grand juries decide whether to charge crimes in the cases presented to them or investigated by them.
The Trial Begins
The Burden of Proof The Prosecution is responsible to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime charged. The Defense is to discredit the prosecution’s case and create reasonable doubt. The Jury’s responsible to determine and assign guilt from the presented evidence.
Jury Selection Persons on a jury panel are to be selected at random from those called for jury duty. The first step in a trial is to select from among them the number of jurors needed to try the case. Names are drawn at random from the jury panel, and those who are called take seats in the jury box. The judge will make a short statement explaining what the case is about. Then the judge or attorneys will question each of you to see whether there is any reason why you cannot be a fair and impartial juror in that case. This is called the voir dire examination.
Jury Selection The questions may be based on the answers to the Juror Personal History Questionnaire, which was previously provided. They may deal with personal life and beliefs, because these could affect the attitude toward one side or the other. A juror who is related to, or friends with, any of the parties, or who has unfinished business with any of the lawyers, or who knows or has heard so much about the case that they have already formed a fixed opinion about the matter, will probably be challenged for cause and be excused from duty. In addition, each side may excuse a certain number of jurors without giving a reason. These are called peremptory challenges.
Opening Statements After the jury has been chosen and sworn, the attorney for the party who filed suit will make an opening statement to the jury about what is intended to be proved. In a civil case, this is the plaintiff's attorney; in a criminal case, it is the prosecuting or district attorney on behalf of the state or municipality. The defense attorney will then make an opening statement directly after the plaintiff's or state's opening statement.
Presentation of the Evidence by the Plaintiff or State After the opening statements, the side bringing the suit, the (plaintiff or the state), will call witnesses first and ask questions. The initial examination of a witness is referred to as direct examination. A witness may testify as to matters of fact; i.e. tell what was seen, heard, felt, smelled or touched through the use of physical senses. Generally, a witness cannot testify to hearsay, that is, an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.
Presentation of the Evidence by the Plaintiff or State A witness may also identify documents, pictures, or other physical exhibits in the trial. Generally, a witness cannot state an opinion or give a conclusion unless it has been determined by the judge that the witness is an expert qualified in a particular field. Usually, an attorney may not ask leading questions of a witness. A leading question is one which suggests the answer desired. Objections may be made by the opposing counsel to leading questions, (questions which call for an opinion or conclusion on the part of the witness), or questions which require an answer based on hearsay. There are many other reasons for objections under the rules of evidence.
Presentation of the Evidence by the Plaintiff or State When an objection to a question is made, the judge will either sustain or overrule it. If sustained, the attorney may either rephrase the question or ask another. If an objection to a question is sustained, the attorney asking the question may make an offer of proof by dictating to the court reporter, away from the hearing of the jury, the answer which the witness would have given if permitted. This offer forms part of the record should the case be appealed and provides proof to the appellate court that the attorney was denied the opportunity to bring out specific information.
Presentation of the Evidence by the Plaintiff or State If an objection is denied or overruled, the witness may then answer the question. If, during any part of the trial proceedings, an attorney or witness makes remarks which are deemed seriously prejudicial, the opposing attorney may object and request that the jury be instructed to disregard them and may, in some instances, move for a mistrial, that is, ask that the present trial be terminated and the case be set for retrial at a later date.
Cross-Examination When the plaintiff's or state's attorney has finished direct examination of the witness, the defendant's attorney may then ask questions, referred to as cross-examination. On cross-examination, the defendant's attorney will attempt to challenge the accuracy of the witness's direct testimony. The attorney may try to bring out prejudice or bias of the witness or other interest in the case. On cross-examination, leading questions are generally allowed, and the witness can usually be asked questions which may bear upon the witness's credibility.
Re-direct Examination After the opposing attorney completes cross-examination, the attorney calling the witness may ask questions on re- direct examination. The purpose of re-direct examination is to rehabilitate a witness whose testimony has been damaged by cross- examination. The opposing attorney may then re-cross-examine..
Motion for Directed Verdict/Motion for Judgment of Acquittal The process of direct, cross, re-direct, and re-cross examination will continue until the attorney for the plaintiff or state has called all witnesses and presented all evidence. At the conclusion of the plaintiff's or state's evidence, the attorney will announce that the plaintiff or state rests its case. At this point in the trial proceedings, the defense attorney may move to dismiss the plaintiff's or state's case, claiming that a cause of action has not been proved. This motion is known as a motion for a directed verdict in civil cases or a motion for judgment of acquittal in criminal cases and is made in court but argued out of the presence of the jury. If the motion is granted, the case will be dismissed; if not, the case will proceed, and the defense will be given an opportunity to present evidence..
Presentation of the Evidence by the Defendant If the defense chooses to present evidence, the defense attorney will do so in the same manner as the plaintiff or state, and the plaintiff or state will cross-examine the defendant's witnesses. The plaintiff or state has the burden of proof, meaning the duty of proving a fact or facts in dispute. In a civil case, the plaintiff must prove the case by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning the greater weight of evidence..
Presentation of the Evidence by the Defendant In a criminal case, the defendant is presumed to be not guilty and is not required to prove innocence. The criminal defendant has protection against self-incrimination under the Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and cannot be required to testify..
Rebuttal Evidence At the conclusion of the defendant's presentation, the plaintiff or state may then present rebuttal witnesses or evidence designed to disprove the testimony and evidence presented by the defendant. The defendant may cross-examine rebuttal witnesses.
Conferences During the Trial Occasionally during the trial, the attorneys will ask permission to approach the bench and speak to the judge, or the judge may call them to the bench. They may talk about admissibility of certain evidence, irregularities in the trial, or other matters. The discussions between the judge and attorneys occur away from the hearing of the jury because the jurors might be prejudiced by what they hear. This is referred to as a "side bar conference."
Conferences During the Trial The question of admissibility of evidence is a matter of law for the judge, not the jury, to decide. If the question is complex, the judge will order the jury to retire and will hear the attorneys' arguments outside the jury's presence. Whenever the jury leaves the courtroom, the judge will admonish them not to form or express an opinion or discuss the case with anyone.
Closing Arguments Closing arguments are summations to the jury of the facts and evidence brought out during the trial. The attorney for the plaintiff or state will present the first argument in closing the case, followed by the attorney for the defendant. The plaintiff or state will then be allowed to conclude.
Instructions to the Jury Attorneys for each side may submit to the judge a number of instructions they wish to have given to the jury on the law that governs the case. The judge will indicate to the attorneys those instructions which he will accept or refuse. The attorneys, in turn, may make objections to such rulings for the purpose of the record in the event of an appeal. The judge will then instruct the jury of the law relevant to the case.
Instructions to the Jury In a civil case, the judge will define the issues the jury must decide if it is to find for the plaintiff or the defendant. In a criminal case, the judge will state to the jury the law as it applies to the case and will identify the types of verdicts which may be returned.
Jury Deliberations The court attendant will escort the jury to the jury room where it will remain until a verdict is reached. The court attendant will be assigned to the jury and will not permit anyone to enter or leave the jury room or otherwise interfere with the jury during its deliberations. The jury may review exhibits introduced into evidence and may, if necessary, return to the courtroom, in the presence of both attorneys to ask a question of the judge regarding the judge's instructions, or to clarify a point of law. In most cases, the jury will be excused to go home at night. In some felony criminal cases, however, it may be in the best interest of justice to sequester the jurors, that is, isolate them from contact with the news media and the public during the course of the trial..
Verdict When the jury has reached a verdict, the court attendant will escort the jury to the courtroom where, in the presence of the judge, the parties, and their attorneys, the verdict will be read in open court. There is no constitutional mandate that the verdict must be unanimous, however most states require it.
An attorney for either party may ask that the jury be polled, in which case each juror will be asked if the verdict returned is that juror's verdict.. Sometimes jurors cannot reach an agreement as to what should be the verdict in a case. When the opinion of the jurors are so divided as to prevent their reaching a verdict, the jury is said to be a hung jury. The trial judge may give further general instructions on the importance of reaching a verdict. If the jury remains deadlocked, the judge may declare a mistrial.
What did you think of the presentation? The sketches are from the Pearl Mississippi trial of Luke Woodham. Email homework: Would you like to sit on a jury? Why? Would you be a fair juror? How? o What do you think of plea- bargaining? Do you think that it is always done voluntarily (without duress) on the part of the accused?