3 History of the Federal Court System Article III of the US Constitution established a federal court systemCongress created Article III on Sept. 24, 1789Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789, which established 13 courts, one for each of the original states
4 History of the Federal Court System (continued) Since 1789 there have been numerous Judiciary Acts passed that continue to define the American Court SystemThe Supreme Court originally had 6 justicesOriginally, there were only three circuit courts with judges being “circuit riders”
5 Structure of the Federal Court System The structure of the federal court system begins with the magistrate courts and ends with the Supreme Court:Supreme CourtAppellate CourtsTrial CourtsMagistrate Courts
6 Structure of the Federal Court System (continued) Magistrate CourtsCreated by the Federal Magistrate’s Act of 1968Magistrates are appointed by a district court judgeFull-time magistrates are appointed to an 8-year termPart-time magistrates are appointed to a 4-year term
7 Structure of the Federal Court System (continued) Trial CourtsAre also known as US district courtsThere are 94 US district courts covering the US and its territoriesThe judges are appointed by the US PresidentServe a life termConsent from Congress is required
8 Structure of the Federal Court System (continued) Court of AppealsAre also known as Appeals Court, Appellate Court, and Circuit CourtsThere are 12 US Regional Circuit Courts of Appeal and one US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and approximately 165 federal courts of appeals judgesThe court does not conduct a jury trial but is made up of a panel of judges, usually threeThe judges are appointed by the US PresidentConfirmed by the SenateServe a lifetime appointment
9 Structure of the Federal Court System (continued) US Supreme CourtIs the highest court in the USConsists of nine justicesA decision of the Supreme Court is final and cannot be overruledThe judges are nominated and appointed by the US PresidentConfirmed by SenateServe a lifetime appointment
10 Function of the Federal Court System (Criminal Law) Magistrate CourtsAssist the US district courtsMay conduct trials in misdemeanors and petty offenses, along with performing in felony cases pretrial duties, such as preliminary hearings, pretrial motions, and conferencesUS District CourtsConduct trials in which there have been violations of federal criminal lawsConduct arraignments, pleas, and felony trials
11 Function of the Federal Court System (Criminal Law) (continued) Court of AppealsThe appellate courts hear appeals from the US district courtsDefendants can appeal their cases based on a claim that they were denied a fair trial or the law they were convicted under was unconstitutionalThe court must determine:If the district judge made a judicial errorIf the error could have substantially affected the court’s decisionIf the answer is “no” to both questions, the appeal is dismissedIf the answer is “yes” to one of the above questions, the court will review the appeal and issue a ruling
12 Function of the Federal Court System (Criminal Law) (continued) US Supreme CourtAs a general rule, agrees to decide on cases where there is a difference of opinion among the courts of appeals, or where there is an important constitutional question or issue of federal law that needs to be clarifiedDecides which cases it will hearIs the legal mediator for lawsuits between states, and between the US and foreign countriesIs the final authority for legal opinions binding on the federal government
13 Function of the Federal Court System (Criminal Law) (continued) US Supreme Court (continued)Must review cases whenA federal court has held an act of Congress to be unconstitutionalA US court of appeals has found a state statute to be unconstitutionalA state’s highest court of appeals has ruled a federal law to be unconstitutionalAn individual’s challenge to a state statute on federal constitutional grounds is upheld by a state’s highest court of appealsOnce the court makes a ruling, the lower courts, including state courts, have to fall in line with that ruling
14 History of the State Court System The Texas Supreme Court was established in 1836 after the Texas RevolutionIn 1845 the Supreme Court was restructured, and in 1850 the offices of the Supreme Court were filled by electionsIn 1876, to relieve the case load of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals was created to deal with criminal cases; it was later renamed the Court of Criminal AppealsIn 1980 the previously established courts, the Courts of Civil Appeals, were renamed Courts of Appeals and were designed to relieve the Court of Criminal Appeals’ caseload
15 Structure of the State Court System Began with the justice or municipal courts and ended with the Texas Supreme Court or the Court of Criminal Appeals:Texas Supreme Court or Court of Criminal AppealsCourts of appealsDistrict courtsCounty courtsJustice courts or municipal courts
16 Structure of the State Court System (continued) Justice or Municipal Courts819 justice courts*819 judges*926 municipal courts*1,559 judges*Justices of the PeaceAre electedDo not have to be licensed attorneysMunicipal judges are hired by the city they serve*Totals are as of March 2013.
17 Structure of the State Court System (continued) County Courts509 courts*254 constitutional county courts (1 per county)237 statutory county courts*18 statutory probate courtsJudges are electedJudges do not have to be licensed attorneys*Totals are as of March 2013.
18 Structure of the State Court System (continued) District Courts456 courts*456 judges*359 districts contain one county*97 districts cover more than one countyJudges are electedJudges must be licensed attorneys*Totals are as of March 2013.
19 Structure of the State Court System (continued) Courts of Appeals14 courts by region80 justicesJustices are elected
20 Structure of the State Court System (continued) Courts of Last Resort for Texas State CourtsTexas Supreme Court1 court in Austin9 justicesAre electedTexas Court of Criminal Appeals9 judges
21 Function of the State Court System (Criminal Law) Justice CourtsClass C criminal misdemeanors punishable by fine only (no confinement)May issue search or arrest warrantsThese courts can also handle civil issues, such as issuing marriage licenses and settling small-claims suits
22 Function of the State Court System (Criminal Law) (continued) Municipal CourtsClass C criminal misdemeanors punishable by fine only (no confinement)May issue search or arrest warrantsMunicipal ordinance offenses:Punishable by a fine not to exceed:$2,000 for ordinances that govern fire safety, zoning, and public health; or$500 for all others
23 Function of the State Court System (Criminal Law) (continued) County CourtsConstitutional county courtsPreside over Class A and Class B MisdemeanorsFines greater than $500 or jail sentenceStatutory county courtsStatutory probate courtsPrimarily probate matters
24 Function of the State Court System (Criminal Law) (continued) District courtsAll Felony criminal casesCourts of AppealsIntermediate appeals from trial courts within districtTexas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal AppealsTexas Supreme CourtHas final appellate jurisdiction in civil cases and juvenile casesResponsible for licensing attorneys and attorney disciplineTexas Court of Criminal AppealsHas final appellate jurisdiction in criminal casesHears appeals of death sentence cases
25 ResourcesPrentice Hall, Criminal Courts: Structure, Process, and Issues (2nd Edition), 2007, Dean John Champion, Richard D. Hartley, & Gary A. RabeUnited States CourtsTexas Courts OnlineOutline of the U.S. Legal System, Bureau of International Information Programs, United States Department of State, 2004,