This presentation dwells upon some differences between such types of the court systems as criminal, civil, trial, appeals, courts of last resort, courts of general jurisdiction, courts of specific jurisdiction.
Focus of the court
The criminal court focuses on criminal issues including but not confined to assault, theft, robbery, murder. The civil court concentrates on infractions including but not confined to littering, disturbing the peace, speeding. The major goal addressed in the trial court is to identify whether the person is guilty or not guilty. As for the appellate court, the major goal is to check whether the procedures during the trial court were free of errors that could affect the validity and correctness of the decision made.
Importantly, in the trial courts, the focus is made on considering the details of the case (listening to the witnesses, analyzing evidence and so). However, the appellate courts concentrate on the law and legal issues. It is checked whether all procedures were held properly, and all regulations have been followed.
The court of last resort checks the decisions made in the appellate court. It is often referred to as the supreme court. Courts of special jurisdiction focus on limited areas of law (e.g., traffic violations), or some groups of people (adolescents). Courts of general jurisdiction focus on a variety of aspects of the law.
The court systems in question also differ in terms of the sequence. Thus, people first go to the criminal or civil court to resolve their cases (Neubauer & Fradella, 2013). Clearly, these courts can be of specific or general jurisdiction. If one of the parties is not satisfied with the decisions made, the party goes to the appellate court where the decision is checked. Importantly, the details of the cases are not considered, legal issues and procedures are under analysis. If one of the parties is unsatisfied with the decision of the appellate court, the party can go to the court of last resort. The decision of the court of last resort cannot be further questioned.
The role of the jury
The jury is mainly present when criminal cases are heard (criminal and trial courts, the court of general jurisdiction). The jury must decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. Civil courts usually do not have the jury. Courts of specific jurisdiction and appellate courts (including the court of last resort) do not have the jury.
The role of the judge
The role of the judge in the criminal and civil courts, as well as the courts of general and specific jurisdiction and trials, is to identify whether the evidence can be used in the court. The judge also identifies the type of the punishment. At the same time, the judge in the court of appeals or the court of last resort does not look into the details of the case but focuses on the correctness of the legal procedures and the correctness of the decision made by the previous court.
The civil courts often result in compensations made to the plaintiff. As for the criminal court, the court of specific jurisdiction and general jurisdiction, the felonies are more serious, which leads to more serious punishment that includes compensation, fines, community service, imprisonment. The court of appeals and the court of last resort do not decide on the punishment or any details of the case. The decision involves the identification of the erroneousness or correctness of the decision made by the previous court.
The system can be presented in a form of the pyramid. The primary courts where people can solve their legal issues are trial courts that are further divided into civil or criminal (in accordance with their subject-matter) or specific jurisdiction or general jurisdiction court (according to the jurisdiction or area). If one of the parties (or the plaintiff in criminal cases) is not satisfied with the decision, the party goes to the court of appeals. The last resort is the Supreme court or the court of last resort whose decision cannot be further reviewed.
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Neubauer, D.W., & Fradella, H.F. (2013). America’s courts and the criminal justice system. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
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