The U.S. court system is characterized by its complexity and the division into courts at the state and federal levels. They are complemented by the so-called specialized courts that have limited jurisdiction and focus on specific crimes such as, for example, drugs. In order to see a clear picture of how these structural elements cooperate within the system, it is vital to consider the mechanism of their work. The evaluation of the impact of specialized courts, especially drug courts as the most common institutions, will also be beneficial. Therefore, for the purposes of this paper, the work of U.S. courts at different levels and the efficiency of drug courts are assessed.
The Path from State Courts to the U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. courts’ decision-making process is complicated by their decentralization, and it can consume substantial time. This specificity of law traditions in the country allows dividing competencies between different types of legal institutions. Thus, the federal courts oversee only a limited range of cases related to the violation of national laws. As for other crimes, the proceedings start from state courts guided by state laws. However, it is not always possible to make a decision in some cases. In this situation, they can be tried by other courts at the upper level of the hierarchy. For this reason, the consideration of the path of a case from the state trial court level to the Supreme Court can reveal the way various issues are resolved by this institution.
In the beginning, crimes are investigated by local authorities in accordance with state laws. Hence, trial courts are the lowest element of the country’s legal hierarchy. Their task is to determine one’s guilt in a matter and only in the case of small amounts of money involved in the process. If a defendant does not plead guilty and insists that there was a mistake, the case is moved to intermediate appellate courts. However, this decision does not guarantee that the hearings’ outcome will satisfy the people under investigation. At this point, a state supreme court or the U.S. Supreme Court involves in the proceedings.
An alleged criminal files an appeal against the decision of the appellate court, depending on the type of crime that was committed. They fall under the jurisdiction of one of the two courts mentioned above and are considered accordingly. These institutions review the petitions and decide whether their interference is legal or the matter is not related to their work. If the Supreme Court does not accept the case, the previous institution’s decision becomes final (Masood, Kassow, & Songer, 2017). However, when the crime is investigated by it, the judgment is made based on prior hearings and the court’s majority opinion.
Specialized Courts in the U.S.
The idea of specialized courts or, more specifically, drug courts in the United States is controversial. It seems that their existence is beneficial in terms of reducing recidivism and drug use (Logan & Link, 2019). Nevertheless, the number of disadvantages related to these institutions outweighs their positive impact. In their nature, drug courts imply a change in attitude towards criminals who abuse drugs in contrast to other offenders (Logan & Link, 2019). This fact reflects the possibility of a lighter sentence for these people, whereas such decisions are not reasonable from the perspective of justice. Moreover, the rehabilitation programs intended for these people do not guarantee their active participation (Logan & Link, 2019). Thus, drug courts’ creation is not a good idea since they do not solve the problem.
These legal institutions are widespread in the United States, and my jurisdiction is no exception to the rule. However, this circumstance does not make them relevant to decreasing crime rates throughout the country. On the contrary, they create more problems than solve them while offering special treatment to drug abusers (Logan & Link, 2019). Moreover, drug courts’ efficiency was proved only in theory, and the researchers admit that there is a need for evidence-based studies allowing to clarify the matter (Logan & Link, 2019). Hence, drug courts are not effective regarding their objectives.
From the perspective of the compromise between the success of such programs and their price, it is clear that this type of court is not an optimal decision. In this case, efficiency is critical, but it was not proven in practice (Logan & Link, 2019). Hence, moderate success rates do not justify these legal institutions’ costs, whereas the former is more important in combatting crime. In turn, further development of drug courts will result in the privileged position of drug abusers in contrast to other criminals and poor performance of the court system. The only way to balance these attributes is to equally address all criminal groups and distribute expenses accordingly.
To sum up, the U.S. court system is a complex mechanism that addresses various issues at different levels. Its productivity is partially explained by tight connections between legal institutions. However, their work is complicated by the emergence of specialized courts. As the example of drug courts shows the efficiency of an individualized approach is dubious and proved only in theory. Thus, further reorganization of these institutions seems to be reasonable.
Logan, M. W., & Link, N. W. (2019). Taking stock of drug courts: Do they work?. Victims & Offenders, 14(3), 283-298. Web.
Masood, A. S., Kassow, B. J., & Songer, D. R. (2017). Supreme Court precedent in a judicial hierarchy. American Politics Research, 45(3), 403-434. Web.