Most individuals are fortunate and go their entire life without having to step foot in a courtroom on the other hand for some individuals the courtroom is like a second home. This paper will compare and contrast two types of laws, civil and criminal laws in the United States (U.S.) and the structure of the state and federal court systems. The U.S. court system is based on two levels, a federal system and a state system both have specific duties and powers, many state courts mirror the federal system.
Many people do not have a clue about what civil law is about, television shows like Judge Judy show simple examples of civil law cases. An issue between parties or grievance to an individual or other private party is a civil law, an example is a breach of contract between an individual and business. These cases are filed by a private party or plaintiff against a defendant, presided over by a judge, some cases may involve juries. To win a civil case, the plaintiff must establish the defendant’s liability only according to the preponderance of evidence; and defendants are not entitled to the same legal protections as are the criminally accused
These types of cases Punishment in these cases almost always involves a monetary award and never consists of imprisonment. (Duignan, 2018). Preponderance of evidence is the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence (Law.com, 2018).
Television has created a double edge sword for the criminal court system, shows like Law and Order show how quick and easy it is to get the bad guy. Criminal law is a crime against the public an example is murder (Duignan, 2018). In criminal cases, only the federal or a state government or in other words the prosecution may initiate a case against a defendant; these cases are almost always decided by a jury; punishment for serious charges often consists of imprisonment but may also include a fine paid to the government; to secure conviction, the prosecution must establish the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt; and defendants are protected against conduct by police or prosecutors which violates their constitutional rights, including the right against the Fourth Amendment of unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fifth Amendment the right against compelled self-incrimination (Duignan, 2018).
An example where a single wrongful act may constitute both a public offense and a private injury and be both criminal and civil charges is the O.J. Simpson case. In 1995, Mr. Simpson was acquitted of having murdered his wife and her friend, but two years later he was found liable for their killings in a civil suit for wrongful death (Duignan, 2018).
State Court System
Many state courts are scaled down versions of federal courts. State laws and state constitutions determine the make up on each state court system. The jurisdiction of a state court resides within the boundaries of the respective state. The highest court is the State Supreme Court, some states have a Court of Appeals, state trial courts are also known as Circuit or District Courts depending on the state (United States Courts, 2018). States also have specific courts to hear certain cases examples are probate court, juvenile court, criminal courts, and family courts. Selection of these State Court judges is handled in many ways, methods are elections, appointment for a specific timeframe, life, or a combination of these methods (United States Courts, 2018).
Federal Court System
The federal court system is based on a multi-level structure of U.S. District Courts, U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, these courts are delineated according to specific geographic areas spread across the country. The U.S. District Courts are the trial courts, there are 94 of these courts, next is the U. S. Court of Appeals comprised of 13 circuits and the court of all courts and final stop for any legal case in the country is the U.S. Supreme Court (United States Courts, 2018). Within the federal court system are also specialized courts like Bankruptcy Court, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, U.S. Court of International Trade and the U.S. Tax Court (United States Courts, 2018). All individuals selected to a federal level court are experts in the criminal justice field, appointed for life by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Titles very for these individuals, at the Supreme Court level, the individuals are called justices, at the Circuit Court and District Court level the individuals are called judges (United States Department of Justice, 2018). The number of individuals sitting on the benches at the federal court level varies, the District Court level has at least one judge, the Circuit Courts have as few as 6 to as many as 29 judges, the Supreme Court has one chief justice and eight associate justices (United States Department of Justice, 2018).
This paper looked at two types of laws, civil and criminal laws in the U.S. and compared the structure of the state and federal court systems. Many people believe we do not have the
- Duignan, B. (2018). What Is the Difference Between Criminal Law and Civil Law? Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/story/what-is-the-difference-between-criminal-law-and-civil-law
- Law.com, (2018). Search Legal Terms and Definitions. Retrieved from https://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=1586
- United States Courts, (2018). Comparing Federal & State Courts. Retrieved from http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/court-role-and-structure/comparing-federal-state-courts
- United States Courts, (2018). Court Role and Structure. Retrieved from http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/court-role-and-structure
- United States Department of Justice, (2018). Introduction to The Federal Court System. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/usao/justice-101/federal-courts