Chapter 4
THE COURT SYSTEM
Lesson 4-1:
Dispute Resolution and the Courts
Resolving Disputes Privately
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Litigate – take disputes to court
Mediator – independent third party who tries to
develop a solution acceptable to both sides of
the dispute
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Decision does not bind the parties
Arbitrator -- third party who holds an informal
hearing to determine what happened
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Decision is binding, can be enforced by court order
Different Levels of Courts

Court – a governmental forum that
administers justice under the law

Follows impartial and thorough procedures to
make decisions
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2 Levels of Courts:
1. Trial Courts – first court to hear a
dispute
original jurisdiction – authority to
try the case the first time it is heard
Judge, witnesses, clerks, sheriff or
marshals, bailiffs and jury members
2. Appellate Courts – reviews decisions
of lower courts when a party claims an
error was made in previous proceedings
Trial Court Participants
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Witness – testify about trial
Lawyers – officers of the court
Juries – decide issues of fact
Clerk – keeps calendar, records
proceedings, and computes court costs
Sheriffs (or deputies) – serve as bailiffs (in
state courts) summons witnesses, keep
order in court and carry out judgments.
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At Federal Level – Marshalls
Appellate Courts
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Panel of 3 judges
do not hear witnesses
generally do not accept new evidence
concerned with error of law rather than questions of fact
Appellate courts examine the transcript (verbatim record of
what went on at a trial)
Read appellate briefs (written arguments on the issues of
law)
Decide if decision of lower court will be:
1. affirmed (upheld)
2. reversed (overturned)
3. amended (changed)
4. remanded (sent back to trial for corrective action or
new trial)
Chapter 4
THE COURT SYSTEM
LESSON 4-2:
Federal Court System
3 Levels of Federal Courts
1. Federal District Courts
2. Federal Courts of Appeals
3. U.S. Supreme Court
3 Levels of Federal Courts
(Cases involving
Federal Law)
UNITED STATES
SUPREME COURT
13 U.S. COURTS OF APPEALS
(12 Circuit Courts)
(1 Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit)
STATE
SUPREME
COURTS
U.S.
DISTRICT
COURTS
SPECIALIZED
FEDERAL
COURTS*
MANY
FEDERAL
AGENCIES
*Specialized Federal Courts – Tax Court, Court of International Trade, Claims
Court
Jurisdiction
Power of a court to decide a case
Original jurisdiction – authority to try the case the first time it
is heard
General jurisdiction – authority to hear almost any kind of
case
Special jurisdiction -- authority to hear only one specific type
of case
Small Claims – Bankruptcy Court
Appellate jurisdiction – authority to decide an appeal
Jurisdiction
of the Federal District Courts
Hear cases involving:
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Federal questions or cases that arise under the
Constitution, U.S. Law, and U.S. treaties
Lawsuits between citizens of different states
Lawsuits between U.S. citizen and a foreign nation
Lawsuits between U.S. citizen and a foreign citizens


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These parties have diversity of citizenship
Must be more than $75,000 to be heard in federal courts
Less than $75,000 – case should be heard in state court
1. Federal District Courts
-- Lowest level of court with general jurisdiction

Trial court of the federal system – first court to hear
case
2. Federal Courts of Appeals

13 Federal Courts of Appeals
Appellate jurisdiction over the district court – can hear
appeals from this court
3. United States Supreme Court

-- Highest court in the land
Both original and appellate jurisdiction
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Original jurisdiction – cases affecting ambassadors, public
ministers and consuls
Appellate jurisdiction -- hears appeals from U.S. Court of
Appeals and other high courts of various states

Writ of certiorari – an order that compels the state court to turn
over the record of the case
Chapter 4
THE COURT SYSTEM
LESSON 4-3:
State Court System
Structure of State Court Systems

State Trial Courts – Original and general
jurisdiction
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Court of Record – keeps an exact account of what
goes on at trial.
State Court of Appeals – panel of 3 judges
review case
State Supreme Courts – Appellate and
original jurisdiction
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Issue final decision unless federal issues or U.S.
constitutional issues
Justice – the judge who sits on state supreme courts
State Court System
SUPREME
COURT
INTERMEDIATE
APPEALS
COURT
TRIAL COURT
(Original, General
Jurisdiction)
FAMILY
COURT
JUVENILE
COURT
MUNICIPAL
COURT
JUSTICE’S
COURT
(Justice of the Peace)
PROBATE
COURT
SMALL CLAIMS
COURT
CRIMINAL
COURT
State Courts
with Specialized Jurisdiction
1. Associate Circuit Courts or County Courts – hear
minor criminal cases, state traffic offense and lawsuits
with small amounts involved.
2. City or Municipal Courts – divided into traffic and
criminal divisions; hear violations that occur within city
limits
3. Small Claims Court – handles disputes in which small
amounts, general $2,500 or less, are involved.
4. Juvenile Courts – hear disputes involving juveniles
emphasis on rehabilitation not punishment
5. Probate Courts – administers wills and estates
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Chapter 4 THE COURT SYSTEM