The US court system is of two types, Federal and State. The Judicial system that enforces the laws has both Federal and State controls. The Federal system is based entirely on what the Constitution allows and the State system picks up where this leaves off. Both systems are somewhat interactive and both are constantly comparing and assessing their governing system in relation to the other. How can this be otherwise?
The Federal Judicial system in the United States concerns itself with the whole of the United States, internally and externally; The states are narrower and see as their role interpreting Federal mandates as well as creating laws and enforcing them that directly aid them in their special areas. Both are keenly aware of the other: If, as an example, the states believe the government is interfering and is overstepping their bounds in areas set aside as state justice system, they may appeal the ruling.
The same is true if the Federal government believes the States are negligent in their duty concerning their own jurisdictions. This interaction makes for many of the headlines in the daily newspapers throughout the fifty states. Education is one area that belongs to the states, but the government is forever looking over their shoulders making sure nothing important is being overlooked or neglected.
Federal versus State courts
The Federal Court residing in Washington, D.C. gets its jurisdiction from the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment grants them certain governing powers over the States. Examples of this are bankruptcy cases which are tried by the Federal courts and the States have no say in these matters. Likewise the States reign supreme in family matters within their individual state boundaries.
The States have some leeway in setting up their court systems but mainly they follow a generalized pattern and are basically fashioned after the Federal system. The rights that are theirs in drawing up their own laws are laws that are not laid down in the Constitution.
The Federal Judiciary is made up of US District Courts; Us Circuit Court of appeals; US Supreme Court; US Court of Claims and US International Trade Court. The President of the United States appoints the federal judges. It’s not quite that simple, however. The US Congress must first approve the decision. Basically, the Federal Government oversees banks and banking issues, military affairs appeals, tax disputes and magisterial affairs. The states take care of family matters and issues that directly affect their citizens when these are outside off federal intervention.
US District Courts
Each state has at least one US district court and larger states may have as many as four. Judges range from at least two to twenty-eight. These court systems that are scattered throughout the fifty states are mainly courts of original jurisdiction; that meaning that most of the cases started somewhere in the states and the final decision being made in one of the Federal jurisdiction courts residing in Washington D.C.
US Court of Appeals
There are thirteen Courts of Appeal; one in Washington D.C. and twelve others scattered throughout. How these courts work: When there’s dissatisfaction with the ruling, an appeal may be made to the Federal system and these judges look for mistakes in the original ruling or wrong ways of interpreting the law. The lawyers analyzing these cases don’t accept any new evidence or facts already presented.
US Supreme Court
In this group nine Justices —one presiding as the chief over the other eight— decide the most difficult cases. Their abode is in Washington, D.C. and they are in office for life after being appointed by the President. How this court works: If there’s still controversy and debate concerning a ruling by an appeals or district court, then the problem of decision making may have to be done in this court.
Initially, the Supreme Court is petitioned with a writ of certiorari and they may accept or decline involvement. It all depends on the nature of the appeal and its importance and whether at least four of the justices have agreed that it’s important enough for them to rule on. They may have agreed with the first ruling and decide that the law has been carried out correctly.
The office of the US Court of Claims where suits against the government are tried are in Washington D.C.; the office of the US Court of International Trade is in New York City. It settles disputes concerning tariffs and other international trade disputes concerning the US. Tax courts and courts representing veterans and their claims are also federal court systems.
Each state has their own court system but is based mainly on the larger Federal system but with their own slant as to what’s more effective to their own location and their special needs. Most of the state systems of justice have two types of courts, those with limited jurisdiction and those with general jurisdiction. Their officials are mainly elected at the poles.
The limited jurisdiction courts are probate courts which take care of estates and wills and other concerns of what happens to property after a person dies; family courts concern themselves with adoptions, annulments, gay marriage issues, alimony, custody and whatever else concerns families and their wellbeing; traffic courts; juvenile courts; small claims courts and municipal courts.
General jurisdiction courts are the main trial courts that hear cases outside of the limited jurisdiction courts. In other words, these courts are for civil and criminal offenses and are presided over by a judge and a jury. These courts may go by other names such as circuit courts, supreme courts, courts of common pleas, dependent upon the state and their whims, of course.
By whatever name any of the US Courts, both federal and state, their name is most descriptive of their purpose. Note that the Supreme Court System has the final say in the ruling of many disputes. These nine judges are held in high esteem and they are handpicked by the president because of their talent for being fair and unbiased judges; a judge nearer to what a supreme judge should be. Here, the word supreme is the highest claim of all, and not too far below the Supreme Judge of all humanity.