chapter  3
36 Pages

Court Organization

Court organization in the United States is complicated by our form of government, federalism. Instead of a single, unied court system such as exists in Great Britain or France, the United States actually has 51 court systems: the federal courts and the courts of the 50 individual states. This situation results in two very different consequences for the American legal system. First, Congress and the state legislatures are free to organize their respective court systems to meet their own needs. The results are that not only is the federal court structure different from those in the states but there is also tremendous diversity among the individual states. A trial court might be called a district court in one state, a superior court in another, and a supreme court in yet another. Most states have a single supreme court; two states, Oklahoma and Texas, have two courts of last resort: one for civil appeals and one for criminal appeals. Such diversity makes it difcult to generalize about the “typical” state court system.