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The Organization of Courts

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Presentation on theme: "The Organization of Courts"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Organization of Courts

2 Three Main Features of Court Organization
Basic structure and role of federal and state courts. Historical development of courts. The politics of court reform.

3 The Structure and Jurisdiction of Courts
Two key elements to understanding court organization: Structure of court systems - the number and types of courts. Court jurisdiction - the legal authority to hear different kinds of disputes that people bring to court.

4 The federal government & 3/4 of the states have four basic types of courts:

5 Features of the Basic Court System
These courts are arranged hierarchically and litigants who are unsatisfied with lower court decisions can appeal to higher courts, subject to special requirements and limitations. The federal and state judicial systems are separate and once a case begins in one system, it generally remains in that system. There are exceptions like appealing state supreme court rulings to the U.S. Supreme Court, as happened in Bush v. Gore (2000). Also, courts have different names in different systems - but their functions are roughly similar based on their order in the hierarchy. For example, in some states the trial courts are called circuit courts, but in the federal system, the major trial courts are called district courts. So don’t let names fool you – look at that court’s place in the hierarchy

6 Trial Courts Trial Courts are the point of entry into the court system. Each side in a dispute states its claim in fact and in law and provides evidence and witnesses for support. Cases are either criminal or civil. In criminal cases, the crime is against “the people,” is formally prohibited by the state, and can involve a fine or jail term. Civil cases include all other cases and do not involve jail terms. Civil cases often involve a government against an individual or group - the enforcement of government policies. Civil cases not involving the government are conflicts among private parties and usually involve torts (personal injury or property damage from an accident or other negligence), debts, or some other conflict involving the transfer or claim to money. The line between the two is often blurry, especially in cases involving the government and stiff fines. Why might it be preferable to try these borderline cases in civil court if you’re the one bringing the suit? Because in criminal court the standards of proof, evidence, and defendant’s rights make getting convictions more difficult. Courts have either general or limited jurisdiction. Trial Courts of limited jurisdiction - narrowly defined categories of cases: federal tax court, traffic court, juvenile crime, minor criminal cases (misdemeanors), small financial disputes, etc. General jurisdiction trial courts hear cases involving high amounts of money and serious criminal cases (felonies).

7 Appellate Courts Everyone is entitled to appeal - persons found guilty in a criminal case and either side in a civil suit. Appeals courts determine if the trial judge made an important error in procedure or interpretation of law. If so, the decision of the trial court is reversed and a new trial may be ordered. Appellate courts do not hold new trials, they review the record of the trial court and hear arguments from the attorneys. Intermediate appellate courts have mandatory jurisdiction while high courts have more discretionary jurisdiction.

8 United States Federal Court System

9 United States Federal Court System
The 11 multi-state jurisdictions of U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals are indicated by different-colored regions (the D.C. Circuit is the 12th). Each state within a circuit is also served by a single District Court jurisdiction or, as indicated by the red lines, multiple District Court jurisdictions. Nationwide there are 94 such judicial districts. For an interactive map, click on the above image.

10 Federal Courts There is at least one federal district court in each state. More populous states, such as Illinois, have more than one district court. Courts of appeals are located regionally. Illinois is in the 7th Circuit. Bankruptcy Courts are not shown in the diagram, but are a special section of the federal district courts. There are about 300 judges that hear only bankruptcy cases. Bankruptcy courts oversee the orderly liquidation of remaining assets and supervise the financial obligations of individuals and businesses that no longer can pay their debts. Decisions can be appealed to the regular district courts. The workload of the bankruptcy courts is much larger than that of the regular district courts. Personal bankruptcies account for 90% of all bankruptcy cases. Defunct businesses account for the rest.

11 Federal District Courts
District courts are the trial courts at the federal level. There are currently 94 federal judicial districts with nearly 700 judges. Jurisdiction: Federal questions - any case involving federal law, the Constitution, admiralty or maritime issues, or a ruling of an agency of the federal government. Federal government as litigant - federal government is a party to the case either as plaintiff or defendant. Diversity - cases between litigants residing in different states in which the amount of money at stake is over $50,000.

12 Federal District Courts
In terms of the number of cases filed each year, you can see that civil cases outnumber criminal cases at the district (trial) court level.

13 Federal District Courts: Recent Statistics
Civil Cases Filed: 1999: 260,271 2004: 281,338 2007: 257,507 2008: 267,257 Criminal Cases Filed: 1999: 59,923 2004: 71,022 2007: 68,413 2008: 70,896 U.S. Bankruptcy Courts Cases Filed: 1999: 1,354,376 2004: 1,618,987 2007: ,269 2008: 1,042,993

14 Federal Courts of Appeals
There are currently 13 federal courts of appeals: 11 regional circuits numbered 1-11, the D.C. Circuit, and a special court for the Federal circuit. Though the D.C. Circuit and the Federal Circuit are based in Washington, D.C., they are two different appeals courts with different jurisdictions and should not be confused with each other. There are roughly 200 appeals court judges. The Circuit Courts are unequal in workload and the number of judges. Congress decides the boundaries of the circuits and the number of judges so politics plays a significant role.

15 Federal Courts of Appeals
Prisoner petitions make up a significant portion of federal appeals. The federal government is a party in over 15% of the cases. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia hears a larger number of cases involving rulings of federal agencies (40% of its docket) because it’s in D.C. Recent statistics—number of cases filed in the U.S. Courts of Appeals: 1999: 54,693 2004: 62,762 2007: 58, 410 2008: 61, 104

16 United States Supreme Court
9 Justices (though # has and can vary) Most courts have mandatory jurisdiction but the Supreme Court has nearly total discretionary jurisdiction, meaning it can choose which cases it wants to decide. The Supreme Court is nearly always an appellate court. But on rare occasions, the Supremes act as a trial court such as in cases involving foreign diplomats or when one state sues another state. Of the 8,000 cases the Supremes are asked to decide each year, less than 100 are actually taken.

17 Federal Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
Politics drives the establishment of these courts. Because the federal government wins more cases in D.C. courts, it has an interest in taking cases out of regular federal district and appellate courts based “locally” throughout the country. Also, powerful lobbies may get their own courts - veterans for example. The following is a list of federal courts of limited jurisdiction and the year they were established by Congress: Claims Court (1855) - financial claims against the federal government: salaries, payments on contracts, property confiscation, taxes. Court of International Trade (1890) - cases involving the levying of customs and duties on imports. Tax Court (1924) - appeals from taxpayers from the IRS. Rail Reorganization Court (1973) - to determine the value of properties transferred from bankrupt railroad companies to the federally supported Amtrak system. It hears very few cases. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and Court of Review (1978) - government requests for wiretaps required for domestic surveillance related to national security. Since 9/11, the FISA Court has been particularly busy and controversial. It meets in secret and rarely denies a government request. Courts of Veterans Appeals (1988) - appeals from vets denied disability coverage and other benefits by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Temporary Emergency Court of Appeals (1971) - energy conservation laws - hears very few cases. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (1982) - hears appeals from the Court of International Trade and Claims Court, the Patent and Trademark Office, International Trade Commission, & other federal agencies. Military Courts & Courts of Appeals – court-martials and appeals from convictions in the military courts.

18 State Courts State courts hear criminal cases (minor and serious) as most crime is a violation of state law, civil disputes of individuals from the same state that involve less than $50,000, and other matters of state law. There are about 1 million Federal cases per year and about 100 million state cases.

19 State Courts State court systems are either streamlined or complex.
Overlapping Jurisdiction occurs when more than one state court may hear the same type of case and is more likely in complex systems.

20 An Example of a Streamlined System

21 An Example of a Complex System

22 Interaction Between Federal and State Courts
Concurrent Jurisdiction - state and federal courts may hear the same types of cases: Diversity cases - while Congress allows federal courts to hear civil cases involving persons from different states involving $50,000 or more, states can also hear these cases. Federal questions - cases involving federal law can be brought in state courts, but not vice versa. Criminal cases - robbery, larceny, embezzlement, forgery, narcotics, etc. often violate both federal and state law. Also, an individual can be tried for a single act in both federal and state courts. For ex. murder in a state trial court and conspiracy to deny the victim’s civil rights in fed district court.

23 Consequences of Dual Courts
Different Policies - there is no clear answer as to what judicial policy is in the United States. For example, federal drug policy may be very different from a particular state’s drug policy. Alternative Courts - litigants can choose the most favorable setting for their case. For example, if the federal judiciary is packed with liberals but a litigant’s state court is largely conservative, plaintiffs in civil matters may seek review in federal court to increase their chances of winning. National Impact - local political and social issues are affected and often shaped by national policy. For example, when the U.S. Supreme Court held that women have the right to abortion (Roe v. Wade, 1973), no state or local law could be passed prohibiting the practice. Overturning Roe would allow state and local governments to decide the issue.

24 Judicial Administration and Court Reform
Administration and reform are concerned with the day to day work of the courts and how it can be improved. Judicial administration involves two broad areas of activity: management of court organization and personnel. processing of litigation.

25 Administration in Federal Courts
The Chief Justice of the United States is the formal leader and manager of the federal court system. The Judicial Conference of the United States is the main decision-making body for the administration of federal courts. Composed of the Chief Justice and the Chief Judges of the circuits plus one district judge from each circuit. They meet twice a year at the U.S. Supreme Court building for a two-day conference. They deal with judicial procedure, the transfer of judges within circuits, recommendations for congressional legislation required for creating new judgeships, increasing judicial salaries, budgets for court operations, and other administrative matters. The conference also oversees the work of the Administrative Office of United States Courts which manages the day to day operations of the federal courts and collects and publishes statistics on the work of the courts. Each federal circuit has its own regional judicial council and judicial conference which attempts to function like the Judicial Conference of the U.S., but on a regional level. Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr.

26 Administration in State Courts
Court Administrator – does research on administrative problems, gathers data, long range budgeting, etc. State Supreme Courts have power to: transfer judges to temporary assignments make uniform rules for procedure Most courts are locally funded and managed by the judges with the clerk of the court. Lisa Goodner Florida State Courts Administrator

27 Conclusion In terms of people directly affected, state courts have a much greater impact on most day-to-day disputes and crime in the U.S. Concurrent jurisdiction has a number of important consequences for judicial policy as well as strategies adopted by litigants in pursuing cases in courts. Though courts are hierarchical in nature, there is substantial decentralization and local control.

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