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Law and the Courts The Administration of Justice The Courts.

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1 Law and the Courts The Administration of Justice The Courts

2 The American Court Structure The U.S. has a dual court system. dual court One system of state and local courts and another system of federal courts.

3 The American Court Structure The court’s jurisdiction is set by law and limited by territory and type of case. jurisdiction The authority of a court to hear and decide cases.

4 U.S. Supreme Court U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals U.S. District Court State Supreme Court Court of Appeals Municipal/County Court Federal CasesLocal/State Cases

5 The Federal Courts The authority for the federal court system is in the Constitution. The system includes: The Supreme Court The federal courts of appeals The federal district courts

6 United States District Courts Trials in federal district court are usually heard by a judge. General trial courts Federal criminal cases involve:  Bank robbery  Counterfeiting  Mail fraud  Kidnapping  Civil rights abuses

7 Circuit Courts of Appeals A party that loses a case in district court may appeal to a federal circuit court of appeals, or in some cases, directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

8 Circuit Courts of Appeals Circuit courts of appeals review a case for errors of law, not of fact. Normally, three judges sit as a panel to hear cases. Jury trials are not allowed. Texas is in the 5 th Circuit along with Louisiana and Mississippi

9 The United States Supreme Court Court of last resort in all questions of federal law and U.S. Constitution. The court may hear cases:  Appealed from federal courts of appeal.  Appealed directly from federal district courts.  Appealed from the high court of a state, if claims under federal law or the Constitution are involved.

10 The United States Supreme Court The U.S. Supreme Court is composed of: A chief justice Eight associate justices Each member of the court is appointed for life by the president and affirmed by the Senate.

11 The United States Supreme Court In order for a case to be heard by the Supreme Court, at least four justices must vote to hear the case.

12 The United States Supreme Court When the court decides a case, it can: Affirm the decision of the lower court and “let it stand.” Modify the decision of the lower court, without totally reversing it. continued…

13 The United States Supreme Court Reverse the decision of the lower court, requiring no further court action. Reverse the decision of the lower court and remand the case to the court of original jurisdiction, for either retrial or resentencing.

14 The State Courts The state courts have general power to decide nearly every type of case. There are generally four levels of state courts: Trial courts of limited jurisdiction Trial courts of general jurisdiction Intermediate appellate courts State courts of last resort

15 Key Actors in the Court Process The three key actors in the court process are: The prosecutor The defense attorney The judge

16 The Prosecutor The prosecutor is a powerful actor in the administration of justice. Prosecutors have the authority to: Decide whether to charge or not charge a person with a crime Decide whether to prosecute or not prosecute a case Determine what the charge will be

17 The Decision to Plea-Bargain Probably the most strategic source of power available to prosecutors is their authority to decide which cases to plea bargain. Justice in America is dispensed mostly through plea bargaining.

18 The Defense Attorney The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to the “effective assistance” of counsel. Defendants have a right to counsel during many stages in the criminal justice process

19 The Defense Attorney A defendant may waive the right to counsel and appear on his or her own behalf. In the American system of justice, the role of defense counsel is to provide the best possible legal counsel and advocacy within the legal and ethical limits of the profession.

20 The Court-Appointed Lawyer In some circumstances, defendants who cannot afford a lawyer are provided with a court-appointed, private attorney. If they are paid at all, court-appointed private attorneys are paid a nominal sum. Many are not knowledgeable in criminal law.

21 The Public Defender In many large jurisdictions, people who cannot afford an attorney are provided with public defenders.

22 The Public Defender Public defenders are paid a fixed salary by the jurisdiction. Although public defenders may have a conflict of interest because of their close working relationship with prosecutors and judges, most defendants prefer them because they specialize in criminal law.

23 The Contract Lawyer A relatively new and increasingly popular way to provide for indigent defense is the contract system. Private attorneys, law firms, and bar associations bid for the right to represent a jurisdiction’s indigent defendants, and are paid a fixed dollar amount.

24 The Judge Judges have a variety of responsibilities in the criminal justice process: Determining probable cause Signing warrants Informing suspects of their rights Setting and revoking bail continued…

25 The Judge Arraigning defendants Accepting guilty pleas In some jurisdictions, managing their own courtrooms and staff Allowing the jury a fair chance to reach a verdict on the evidence presented

26 Selection of Judges The two most common selection methods are: Election Merit selection

27 Selection of Judges In the merit selection process, also known as the “Missouri Plan,” The governor appoints judges from a list of qualified lawyers compiled by a nonpartisan nominating commission. After serving a short term, the judge faces an uncontested election in which citizens vote whether to keep the judge or not. If voters elect to keep the judge, they serve a full term.

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