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 The Structure of Our Courts
       Source of Law:
The United States Constitution
Allocates powers between state and federal

Establishes Federal Court System

Allow for state constitutions to provide
framework for state governments and court
    The Source of Law
                US Constitution

State Const.                      Federal Gov.

 Structure of                      Structure of
 State Courts                     Federal Courts
Three Branches of Government


  All exercise some law making
State and Federal Legislatures

  Create law by enacting statutes by
  way of the authority granted to them
  by federal and state constitutions

  The Legislature may delegate power
  to the other branches of government
The Executive Branch
  An executive agency may be statutorily
  authorized to issue rules and regulations.

  Can you think of an example?

  The National Labor Relations Act passed by
  Congress set up the National Labor Relations
  Board authorized to issue administrative rules
  and regulations necessary to enforce labor law.
The Judicial Branch
  What are two ways the Judicial Branch develops

  1) By interpreting constitutional and statutory
  law and applying them to factual circumstances

  2) Through the creation of judge made law
  arising in situations not covered by
  constitutional or statutory law.
       Our Dual Court System

   Jurisdiction is power to hear a case
   General vs.Limited Jurisdiction
   Federal Jurisdiction
   Federal Question
   Diversity of Citizenship
Federal Court Structure

The federal court system is organized around a
general trial court:
The United States District Court.

An intermediate appellate court:
The United States Court of Appeals.

And the final appellate court:
The United States Supreme Court

(Also a few specialized courts such as the United States Tax Court)
Federal Court Structure

                               Court Roles

               The               Law making
         Supreme Court(1)
           The Courts of           correction
            Appeals (13)
         The District Courts        Applying
           (approx. 100)              facts
Federal District Courts
The United States District Courts are organized into
approximately one hundred districts.

Where a state has only one district, the court is
referred to, for example, as the United States
District Court for the District Rhode Island.

Most states have more than one district court.
Alabama for instance, has three; a northern,
southern and middle district.
Federal Courts of Appeal

The United States Courts of Appeals are organized
into thirteen circuits. (See handout)

The circuits include various combinations of states:
the 5th Circuit, for example, hears appeals from the
district courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

Alabama is in the 11th Circuit.
    The U.S. Supreme Court
    The U. S. Supreme Court hears selected appeals
    from the United States Courts of Appeals.

    The U. S. Supreme Court does not decide
    questions of state law.

    But the U. S. Supreme Court hears appeals from
    the highest state courts where the state court's
    decision has been based upon federal law.
 State Court Structure
The state court system has general trial court:
The Circuit Court, the Superior Court, the Court of
Common Pleas, or something similar.

An intermediate appellate court:
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

And the final appellate court:
The Alabama Supreme Court
Three-Tier State Court Structure

                                  Court Roles

                  The                 Law making
           Supreme Court(1)
            The Courts of              correction
          Appeals (1 or more)
       The District or Trial Courts      Applying
              (numerous)                   facts
Two-Tier State Court Structure

                                   Court Roles

                The                 Law making
          Supreme Court(1)               And
                                   Error correction

        District or Trial Courts         Applying
              (numerous)                   facts
Specialized Courts
Specialized courts might include
  a Small Claims Court to decide (perhaps
  without lawyers) disputes where the value at
  stake is not large,

  a Probate Court to adjudicate questions
  involving wills and inheritances,

  a Family Court to settle matters of support
  and child custody,
The Common Law of the States
  The Common law, or “case law” which
  has its roots in the English system varies
  from state to state. There are however
  common views on general principles.
  (Restatement of Torts, Contracts,etc,)

  Federal courts do not engage in the
  creation of common law but have retained
  case law in a few restricted areas such as
  procedural court rules and admiralty law.
Courts of Equity
  In England, the Court of Chancery stood
  in contrast to common law courts, when
  these later courts offered inadequate or
  harsh remedies at law

  American courts have merged the dual
  court system but retain some of the
  differences between common law claims
  and claims in equity.
Creating The Common Law

State v. Blight

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