The Different Types of Courts

The Different Types of Courts


Trial and Appellate Courts

A trial court is where a case, either civil or criminal, is presented to a judge or jury.; cases can only be presented to trial courts if and only if the case does not fall under the jurisdiction of another court. In trial court, the parties involved with the case will abide by certain rules and regulations in preparation of their evidence for the court and will likewise have a fair hearing. During so, the parties involved can present their version of the legal issue; there will first be a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a trial or not, and then following will be the trial date: the genuine trial. After the judge, or jury, has heard both sides of the issue, a ruling is reached. Upon reaching a conclusion, the court might find the defendant at fault; if so, the defendant will then be issued a punishment of a sort.

However, if a party involved believes that the verdict of the trial court was in violation of proper legal procedure, then the case can be brought to the attention of an appellate court. An appellate court consists of a committee of judges who will oversee the trial courts ruling and determine whether the proper legal procedure was followed or not. Most of the time, there are only a few judges who determine whether an appeal is legitimate or not, but there are times when an entire committee is required: formally known as en banc. The appellate courts have what is known as appellate jurisdiction which allows them to overturn the rulings of trial courts., who only have original jurisdiction.

The big difference between appellate and trial courts are the roles they serve. The trial court can offer verdicts on cases and apply the law, whereas appellate courts are concerned with affirming or reversing rulings, not changing them, depending on whether the law was applied correctly or erroneously. This means appellate courts often do not entertain new evidence nor rehear trials. So, if Jane doe receives a verdict which is unsatisfactory, though nevertheless followed all legal procedure, then an appellate court will be of no use.

Types of Trial Courts:

Domestic Relations: a court which hears legal issues regarding family matters, such as, though not exhaustive, child custody, property settlements, or the rights and duties of parents.

Criminal: a court which hears criminal cases, which means charges are being brought against someone accused of committing a crime by the government.

Juvenile: a court which hears criminal cases for children and adolescents who have yet to reach a declared legal age to be tried as an adult.

Civil: a court which handles legal issues which are not crime and do not fall within the jurisdiction of another court.

Probate: a court which deals primarily with legal issues concerning the deceased’s estates and wills.

The Federal and State Court Distinction


The federal court system is one of the three branches, of which possess equal power, composing the federal government. Thus, the federal courts are distinct from state courts and both have their own trial and appellate courts. So, the above explained distinction about trial and appellate courts applies on both the federal and state level in precisely the same fashion. The key difference between the two court systems, however, is the kind of legal issues the two of them see.

The state courts will see legal issues regarding civil and criminal matters. But, when a legal issue involves a federal law, a treatise, the constitution, or cases where the U.S. government is a party involved with the litigation the federal courts encumber the case. In other words, the primary distinctions between the two court systems fall back to their legal jurisdiction, as determined by various sets of laws.

The federal courts are composed of three level of courts. There is the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts, and the U.S. Courts of Appeals. To be noted, the “U.S.” in the name of the court is what distinguishes the difference between a federal and state court. No state courts are allowed to use “U.S.” in their name.

The U.S. District courts function as trial courts; they handle a large majority of the work for the federal judiciary. As noted above, these courts function like any other trial court. They hear cases and apply the law. It should be noted, it is mandatory that every state have at least one federal district court as well.

The U.S. Courts of appeals is the middle level of the federal judiciary system. There are 13 courts of appeals. These courts function like any other appellate court. Their role is to determine whether the law was correctly followed or not; and so, the courts of appeals have no original jurisdiction.

The U.S. Supreme court, although being of limited original jurisdiction, can hear issues on federal or state level if and only if the legal issue at hand raises a federal question: meaning, the case raises important questions about federal law, or the case involves federal law. This court is the highest court in the federal system, so it is where particularly difficult cases end up.

Lastly, special courts have, as of late, also become a growing part of the federal judiciary; they cover issues related to international trade, privacy, and etc., Their function is to deal with highly specialized issues, to which most judges are not well equipped for. For instance, when dealing with privacy and genetic information inside biotech companies, a degree of specialization is of necessity.

Summary on Courts


There are courts which deal with issues federal issues as there are courts which deal with state issues. Within these two hierarchical judicial systems, the two types of courts that exist are either trial or appellate courts, of which some have original jurisdiction and others don’t. For example, the U.S. courts of appeals have no original jurisdiction, though the U.S. supreme court does. Even furthermore, trial courts can be yet further broken down into different categories based on the type of cases they hear: civil, criminal, etc..

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