CHAPTER TWO (Chp.3 in book)
COURT SYSTEMS AND JURISDICTION
Court System – State (Different in every state)
Limited Jurisdiction Courts:
Lowest; only hear limited/specialized cases; only hear small claims. Ex: Traffic courts,
juvenile courts, justice of the peace courts, probate courts, family courts, etc. These are
trial courts, evidence can be introduced & testimony can be given.
General Jurisdiction Trial Courts: (courts of record)
Trial courts in most states & can hear most cases. Testimony & evidence at trial are
recorded & stored for future reference. These courts hear cases that are not within the
jurisdiction of limited jurisdiction courts (felonies & civil cases). You cannot add
evidence past this level.
Intermediate Appellate Court (appellate courts or courts of appeals)
Hear appeals from trial courts; they review trial court record to determine whether there
have been errors at trial that would require reversal or modification of trial court’s
decision. No evidence or testimony permitted.
State Supreme Court (highest court in a state)
Function is to hear appeals from intermediate appellate state courts and certain trial
courts. No new evidence or testimony is heard. Parties usually submit pertinent parts of
or the entire lower court record for review. If you lose in the intermediate appellate court
you can take the case here. Has a panel of judges: what is ruled here is final unless they
involve a question of law that is appealable to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Court System – Special
- These are established by congress & have limited jurisdiction. They include: U.S. Tax
court, U.S. Court of federal claims, U.S. Court of International Trade, U.S. Court of
Court System – Federal
Special Federal Courts – Not on test
U.S. District Court:
Federal court system’s trial courts of general jurisdiction. There are 94 of them. There is
at least 1 federal district court in each state. Federal district courts are empowered to
impanel juries, receive evidence, hear testimony, & decide cases. Most federal cases
U.S Court of Appeals:
This court was created to provide uniformity in the application of federal law in certain
areas, particularly patent law. You don’t put on new evidence here; case is reviewed to see if an error was made in ruling of the lower court that would warrant a reversal or
modification of the decision.
U.S. Supreme Court:
(Highest court in the U.S. / It is set up by the constitution/it’s an appellate court)
9 Supreme Court justices appointed by president w/consent of senate. They are
appointed for life.
President appoints 1 chief justice who administrates Supreme Court.
This is as far as you can go in a court. There decision is final.
Hears appeals from federal circuit courts of appeals, & sometimes from federal
district courts, special federal courts & highest state courts.
No new evidence is heard; lower court record is reviewed to determine if there
has been an error.
Congress gives the Supreme Court discretion to decide what cases it hears.
Petition for Writ of Certiorari – Petition asking Supreme Court to hear a case.
If court decides to hear a case then it issues a writ of certiorari: official notice that
the Supreme Court will review a case. The court only hears about 100 opinions a
year, so writs are only granted in cases involving constitutional/other important
Unanimous, Majority, Plurality, Tie decision: Supreme Court can issue
Unanimous: all justices voting agree on outcome/reasoning used to decide case. Sets a
precedent for that case & all others after.
Majority: majority of judges agree on outcome/reasoning used to decide case. A
majority occurs if at least 5 justices vote same outcome.
Plurality: majority of justices agree on outcome of a case but not on the reasoning (why
bob wins) for reaching an outcome. This decision settles the case but it’s not precedent
for later cases.
Tie: sometimes the Supreme Court meets without all judges being present. If there is a
tie decision the lower court’s opinion is affirmed and the decision of the court is not
precedent for later cases.
- Concurring Opinion: a justice who agrees with the outcome of a case but
not the reason proffered by other justices can issue this. It sets forth
his/her reasons for deciding the case.
- Dissenting Opinion: justice who does not agree with a decision can file
this. It sets forth his/her reasons for his/her dissent.
Federal Court Jurisdiction: Look at book examples!
Federal courts have limited jurisdiction. They get sent 1000 cases & hear only 100. The court has