Types of Courts in the U.S
The courts are the arbiters of justice and interpret the law, protect the rights of citizens, and render justice as per the provisions of the law. In the United States, the judicial system works at both the federal level and the state level. The federal courts handle cases related to federal laws and its constitutionality. They also adjudicate when there are disputes between states. Depending on the type of offense, cases may be tried either at the federal courts or at the state courts.
There are three types of courts in the Federal System; These are the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and the District Courts.
1) District Courts: There are 94 trial courts in the federal court system. These are known as the district courts. They are courts that hear cases under the law and pronounce judgments. Every state has at least one district court. There is a district court that is headed by a trial judge, who may be assisted by a magistrate. These courts hear cases and a jury adjudicate cases. The judge pronounces the judgment based on the jury verdict.
At the district court level, there is also a bankruptcy court. This court deals with bankruptcy cases filed by individuals and businesses. There is also the Court of International Trade that deals with laws related to trade and exports. The US Court of Federal Claims handles claims against the US government.
2) Court of Appeals: These are the appellate courts under the US Federal court system. Anyone not satisfied with the decision of the district courts can file an appeal in the court of appeals. The 94 trial courts are organized into 12 judicial districts. There is one court of appeals for each judicial district. There is also a special court of appeals that hears appeals against the judgment of the US Court of Federal Claims and International trade court.
There are also bankruptcy appellate panels that hear appeals on decisions of the bankruptcy courts. There are five judicial districts that have established bankruptcy appeal panels.
3) US Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in the country. The Supreme Court examines the constitutional validity of all acts passed by Congress. It also hears petitions against the decisions of the US government. The Court is headed by the Chief Justice of the United and other associate justices who serve as judges for life. The Court decides the cases it would take on appeal. All cases may not be taken up. The Supreme Court also takes up appeals against the judgments of federal circuit courts and the Supreme Courts of the states.
The above system explains the three types of courts in the US federal judicial systems. Each state in the USA has its own laws and its own judicial system to deliver justice. The same kind of setup as in the federal system is present even in the states. Each state would have three types of courts:
- a) Circuit courts or District courts where trials are held as per the statutes of that state. This would also include family courts.
- b) Appellate courts are where anyone not satisfied with the decision of the circuit courts can file an appeal.
- c) Supreme Court of each state is the highest court in that state, which handles appeals against judgments of lower courts. It also interprets the laws of the state.
In some states, there are other levels of courts like city courts, county courts, mayor court, probate courts, municipal courts, juvenile courts, and courts of the justice of the peace.