In the United States of America, there is a parallel federal court system and independent courts of each of the fifty states of the country, four federal territories and the District of Columbia.
The US Federal Judicial System consists of the Supreme Court, appellate and circuit courts, and special courts. Еhe US Supreme Court is the head of the entire system of federal courts. At the same time, it occupies an extremely important position in the structure of the highest bodies of state power, along with the president and the US Congress. The Supreme Court of the United States of America is the only judicial body referred to in the country’s constitution. It consists of nine judges, one of whom, by the will of the President of the United States, takes the chair. Each member of the Supreme Court is also appointed by the president and is approved for the post in the Senate.
Decision-making in the country’s highest judicial body takes place by a quorum of six votes. There are cases concerning disputes between two or more states, affecting foreign ambassadors and others. There are quite a few cases that are intended to be considered exclusively by the US Supreme Court. The main function of the Supreme Court is to consider complaints filed against decisions of lower-level federal and state courts, subject to matters of federal importance being dealt with. In addition, the Supreme Court is considering requests to repeal the rulings of the courts of any instances, if they were based on laws that are contrary to the US Constitution.
Appellate courts are one of the main parts into which the judicial system in the United States is divided. They were created in 1891 and represent the courts of intermediate jurisdiction between the district courts and the US Supreme Court. Today, there are 13 courts of appeal in the country, each of which covers from three to ten states and has its own official number. Each court of appeal consists of four to twenty-three judges. The chairman is the judge who is the longest member of this court but has not crossed the threshold of the 70th anniversary. When reviewing cases, a member of the US Supreme Court assigned to him participates in each court of appeal. Courts of appeal review appeals against decisions and sentences handed down by district courts, as well as against decisions of various administrative bodies. Most often, cases are considered by a panel of three judges, but if it is not an appeal, then one or two judges can deal with the case.
The district courts are the main link in a large imperious mechanism called the US judicial system. The entire territory of the United States of America is divided into separate districts, taking into account the border lines of each state. Such a division implies the presence in one state from one to four districts. In addition, US District Courts operate in four foreign territories under the control of this country. In total, the judicial system in the United States today counts 94 district (also called district) courts. Each of them has from two to twenty-seven judges, and the chairman is chosen according to the same rules as in the case with the appellate court. In the first instance, the district courts consider cases of a criminal and civil nature, which are within the competence of the federal bodies of justice. Also, district courts consider complaints of citizens and organizations against the actions of various administrative departments. In district courts, federal magistrates are created who perform auxiliary functions or independently conduct cases for minor crimes, the punishment for which cannot exceed one year of imprisonment or $1,000 in fines. In addition, since 1978, additional bodies dealing with bankruptcy cases have been created at each district court. This category of cases is quite numerous. Complaints against the decisions of this unit are usually made to the same district court in which it operates.
Judicial systems of individual US states
Each of the US states has its own court system. In most cases, the lack of a single vertical structure of the courts is explained by the historical conditions in which the judicial system of each individual state was formed. Most often, the system of general courts consists of two or three stages, and they are supplemented with all kinds of courts with special or limited jurisdiction. In small states, a two-tier judicial system usually operates, implying the presence of courts of the first instance and the highest judicial body. States with a large area and population usually have three-tier system with intermediate and appeal jurisdiction.
State judicial systems are headed by instances, usually called the supreme courts, but in some states, they are called appeals. These courts include 5–9 members, of which one is elected as chairman. This court is mainly involved in the consideration of appeals against decisions of lower courts.
Intermediate courts deal with complaints of sentences imposed by courts of the first instance and other judicial institutions. They involve from 10 to 50 judges, and decisions are made by boards of three judges.
The main unit of the judicial system of each state is the court of law. It deals with the first instance of virtually all criminal cases, with the exception of minor ones, as well as civil cases regardless of the amount of the claim, except for those cases that should be considered by specialized courts.