The United States is known to have an exceptional judicial system. Our system is comprised of two main court systems – the federal court system and the state court system. The Federal court system, an integrated system divided into numerous geographic units and various levels of hierarchy. In addition, each state has its own court system with a system of local courts that operate within the state. Under this dual federal/state court structure, the U. S.
Supreme Court is the final arbiter of federal law, while the highest court of each state (usually called supreme courts) has the ultimate authority to interpret matters of the law of its state. When federal constitutional or statutory matters are involved, the federal courts have the power to decide whether the state law violates federal law (Encarta 2004). Each judicial system is marked by differences in function and operation. Moreover, the fact that there is overlapping jurisdiction and that any court may hear issues of federal and state law complicates the functioning of these systems further.
At bottom, all court systems in the United States are similar in most fundamental respects. U. S. courts are, for the most part, courts of general jurisdiction. In addition, each system is in the hierarchical form of a pyramidal structure, allowing review and – if necessary – revision by upper-level courts (U. S. Supreme Court 2004). Entry-level courts at both the state and federal levels are trial courts, in which witnesses are called, other evidence is presented and the fact-finder (a jury or sometimes a judge) is called upon to decide issues of fact based on the law.
The functioning of these systems is complicated by the fact that there are multiple sources of law, and courts of one system are often called upon to interpret and apply the laws of another jurisdiction. In addition, more than one court may have sovereignty to hear a particular case (U. S. Supreme Court 2004). Court unification is a response to the disturbing tendency of recent years to proliferate a whole new series of small, local, specialized courts, such as drug courts, night courts etc.
Court systems unification involves reorganizing and unifying court systems on a statewide basis. It does away with the confusion, redundancy, and fragmentation that a non-unified system would have by eliminating jurisdictional demarcations based on the type of crime or amount of penalty that can be given out. Unification involves three components: (1) a simplified state trial court structure; (2) judicial policy-making vested in the state supreme court or judicial council; (3) state funding of all or a substantial portion of the state court system (Dean Champion 2003).
It seems that unified court system would be more effective. Many courts will improve services to the public through reallocation of judicial and staff resources. Court operations will generally become more efficient as courts reorganized administrative operations along functional rather than jurisdictional lines and eliminated the duplication of the former two-tier system. Improved court calendars and case management practices will reduce backlogs and improved case disposition time in some courts.
Judges will hear a wider range of cases. Local rules, policies, and procedures will be standardized to support the countywide structure of court operations. Limitations in court technology and facilities were increasingly apparent as courts, will be larger and more complex organizations, strove to deliver services on a countywide basis (Grace 2002). Bibliography: U. S. Supreme Court: Information on the Court’s Organization, Authority, and Jurisdiction.
(2004) Cornell Legal Information Institute, Supreme Court Collection. Available: http://supct. law. cornell. edu/supct/context. html “Courts in the United States. ” (2004). Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. Available: http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_761577885/ Dean Champion (2003) Administration of Criminal Justice: Structure, Function, and Process. Prentice Hall, Chapter 7. Grace, Roger M. (2002, April 11) “Court Unification: a Controversy of the Past…and the Future. ” Metropolitan News-Enterprise.
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