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State court

From Academic Kids

Under the laws of the United States, most disputes are properly taken to the courts of the state in which the dispute arose. Disputes are heard and evidence presented in a trial court, usually located in a courthouse in the county seat.

If one of the litigants is unsatisfied with the decision of the lower court, the matter may be taken on appeal (but an acquittal in a criminal trial may not be appealed due to the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy). An intermediate appellate court, often called the state court of appeals, will review the decision of the trial court. If still unsatisfied, the litigant can appeal to the highest appellate court in the state, usually called the state supreme court. (In New York, however, the Court of Appeals is the highest state court, and the Supreme Court, Civil Court, and Criminal Court collectively are the lowest courts.)

Many states have an court of inferior jurisdiction, presided over by a magistrate or justice of the peace who hears criminal arraignments and tries petty offenses and small civil cases. Cities often have city courts which hear traffic offenses and violations of city ordinances.

The relationship between state courts and federal courts is quite complicated. Although the federal Constitution and federal laws override state laws, it is not the case that state courts are subordinate to federal courts, rather they are more accurately two sets of parallel courts. With regard to an interpretation of a state law, all Federal courts must defer to the interpretation of the state courts.

A case can be moved from a state court to a Federal court only under certain conditions; typically, these "removed cases" involve disputes arising under federal law, or lawsuits between persons residing in different states. In either circumstance, the plaintiff can bring a matter either to state court or federal court; if the plaintiff files suit in state court, the defendant often can remove the case to federal court. Deciding on the jurisdiction is part of litigation strategy for both plaintiff and defendant.

The United States Supreme Court will sometimes accept an appeal from a state's highest appellate court, if the justices believe that the case involves an important question of Constitutional law or federal law.

Another method of federal court review of state court judgments in criminal cases is the federal writ of habeas corpus, in which a federal court is asked to review whether a defendant has been given due process of law. If the federal court finds that the defendant has been denied due process then the defendant must be released or re-tried in the state court. Applications for habeas corpus review are most frequently made in death penalty cases, although the scope of review has been sharply restricted in recent years by Supreme Court decisions and legislation.

Nomenclature

The following table notes the names of the courts in the states and territories of the United States. Listed are the principal courts of first instance (general jurisdiction), the principal intermediate appellate courts, and the courts of final appeal. Most states also have several courts of limited jurisdiction (mayor's courts, magistrate's courts, county courts, municipal courts, courts of claims, etc.), which are not listed here. In some cases where courts are generally assigned to counties, the number of county-based courts does not exactly match the number of actual counties in the state. This happens when a single court has jurisdiction over more than one county.

It is notable that Delaware and Tennessee still make a distinction between a court of law and a court of equity (chancery court). For the most part in the American legal system, while the distinction between law and equity has some legal consequences, separate court systems are not maintained.

State Court of First Instance
(General Jurisdiction)
Intermediate Appellate Court Court of Last Resort
Alabama (District) Circuit Court
(41 judicial districts)
*Court of Civil Appeals
*Court of Criminal Appeals
(-1969: single Court of Appeals)
Supreme Court
Alaska (District) Superior Court
(4 districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Arizona (County) Superior Court
(15 counties)
(Division) Court of Appeals (2 divisions) Supreme Court
Arkansas Circuit Court
(23 judicial circuits)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
California (County) Superior Court
(58 counties)
(District) Court of Appeal
(6 appellate districts)
Supreme Court
Colorado District Court
(22 judicial districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Connecticut District Court
(13 judicial districts)
Appellate Court Supreme Court
(previously: Supreme Court of Errors)
District of Columbia Superior Court (none) Court of Appeals
(previously: Municipal Court of Appeals)
Delaware *Superior Court
(previously: Superior Court and Orphans' Court)
*Court of Chancery
(none) Supreme Court
(previously: Court of Errors and Appeals)
Florida Circuit Court
(20 judicial circuits)
District Court of Appeal
(5 districts)
Supreme Court
Georgia Superior Court
(49 judicial circuits)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Hawaii Circuit Court
(4 circuits: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th)
Intermediate Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Idaho District Court
(7 judicial districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Illinois Circuit Court
(22 judicial circuits)
(District) Appellate Court
(5 districts)
Supreme Court
Indiana County Circuit Court
(90 counties)
(District) Court of Appeals
(5 districts)
(previously: Appellate Court)
Supreme Court
Iowa District Court
(8 districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Kansas District Court
(31 districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Kentucky Circuit Court
(57 circuits)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
(-1976: Court of Appeals)
Louisiana District Court
(40 districts)
(Circuit) Court of Appeal
(5 circuits)
Supreme Court
(-1813: Superior Court)
Maine Superior Court (none) Supreme Judicial Court
Maryland Circuit Court
(8 judicial circuits)
Court of Special Appeals Court of Appeals
Massachusetts Trial Court of the Commonwealth
(7 departments:
*Superior Court
*District Court
*Boston Municipal Court
*Juvenile Court
*Housing Court
*Land Court
*Probate and Family Court)
Appeals Court Supreme Judicial Court
Michigan Circuit Court
(57 circuits)
Court of Claims
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Minnesota District Court
(10 districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Mississippi District Circuit Court
(22 districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Missouri Circuit Court
(45 circuits)
(District) Court of Appeals
(3 districts)
Supreme Court
Montana District Court
(22 judicial districts)
(none) Supreme Court
Nebraska District Court
(12 districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Nevada District Court
(9 judicial districts)
(none) Supreme Court
New Hampshire Superior Court (none) Supreme Court
New Jersey (Vicinage) Superior Court
(15 vicinages)
Superior Court, Appellate Division
(previously: Court of Chancery,
Supreme Court,
and Prerogative Court)
Supreme Court
(previously: Court of Errors and Appeals)
New Mexico District Court
(13 judicial districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
New York *(District) Supreme Court
(12 judicial districts)
*County Court
(57 counties)
*Supreme Court, Appellate Term
(3 judicial departments)
*Supreme Court, Appellate Division
(4 departments)
Court of Appeals
(-1848: Court for the correction of Errors,
Supreme Court of Judicature,
and Court of Chancery)
North Carolina (District) Superior Court
(46 districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
North Dakota District Court
(7 judicial districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Ohio (County) Court of Common Pleas
(88 counties)
(District) Court of Appeals
(12 districts)
Supreme Court
Oklahoma District Court
(26 judicial districts)
Court of Civil Appeals *Supreme Court
*Court of Criminal Appeals
(-1959: Criminal Court of Appeals)
Oregon (District) Circuit Court
(27 judicial districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Pennsylvania District Court of Common Pleas
(60 judicial districts)
*(District) Superior Court
(3 districts)
*Commonwealth Court
(District) Supreme Court
(3 districts)
Rhode Island Superior Court (none) Supreme Court
South Carolina *(Circuit) Court of Common Pleas
(16 circuits)
*(Circuit) Court of General Sessions
(16 circuits)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
South Dakota Circuit Court
(7 circuits)
(none) Supreme Court
Tennessee *(District) Circuit Court
(31 judicial districts)
*(District) Criminal Court
(31 judicial districts)
*(District) Chancery Court
(31 judicial districts)
*(Grand Division) Court of Appeals
(3 grand divisions)
*(Grand Division) Court of Criminal Appeals
(3 grand divisions)
Supreme Court
Texas District Court
(420 districts)
(District) Court of Appeals
(14 districts)
*Supreme Court
*Court of Criminal Appeals
Utah District Court
(8 districts)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Virginia Circuit Court
(31 judicial circuits)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
(previously: Supreme Court of Appeals)
Vermont *Superior Court
*District Court
*Family Court
(none) Supreme Court
Washington (County) Superior Court
(39 counties)
(Division) Court of Appeals
(3 divisions)
Supreme Court
West Virginia Circuit Court
(31 judicial circuits)
(none) Supreme Court of Appeals
Wisconsin (District) Circuit Court
(10 judicial administrative districts)
(District) Court of Appeals
(4 districts)
Supreme Court
Wyoming District Court
(9 districts)
(none) Supreme Court
American Samoa High Court, Trial Division (none) High Court, Appellate Division
Guam Superior Court (none) Supreme Court
Puerto Rico Superior Court (13)
Municipal Court (13)
Court of Appeals Supreme Court
U.S. Virgin Islands (Division) Territorial Court
(2 divisions)
(none) (none)
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