intermediate appellate courts idea

Intermediate Appellate Courts The intermediate appellate courts are relative newcomers to the state judicial scene. Only 13 such courts existed in 1911, whereas 39 states had created them by 1995. Their basic purpose is to relieve the workload of the state’s highest court. In most instances these courts are called courts of appeals, although other names are occasionally used. Most states have one court of appeals with statewide jurisdiction. The size of intermediate courts varies from state to state. 

The court of appeals in Alaska, for example, has only three judges. At the other extreme, Texas has 80 courts of appeals judges. In some states the intermediate appeals courts sit en banc, whereas in other states they sit in permanent or rotating panels. Courts of Last Resort Every state has a court of last resort. The states of Oklahoma and Texas have two highest courts. Both states have a supreme court with jurisdiction limited to appeals in civil cases and a court of criminal appeals for criminal cases. 

Most states call their highest courts supreme courts; other designations are the court of appeals (Maryland and New York), the supreme judicial court (Maine and Massachusetts), and the supreme court of appeals (West Virginia). The courts of last resort range in size from three to nine judges (or justices in some states). They typically sit en banc and usually, although not necessarily, convene in the state capital.

The highest courts have jurisdiction in matters pertaining to state law and are, of course, the final arbiters in such matters. In states that have intermediate appellate courts, the Supreme

Court’s cases come primarily from these mid-level courts. In this situation the high court typically is allowed to exercise discretion in deciding which cases to review. Thus, it is likely to devote more time to cases that deal with the important policy issues of the state. 

When there is no intermediate court of appeals, cases generally go to the state’s highest court on a mandatory review basis. In most instances, then, the state courts of last resort resemble the U.S. Supreme Court in that they have a good deal of discretion in determining which cases will occupy their attention. Most state supreme courts also follow procedures similar to those of the U.S. Supreme Court. That is, when a case is accepted for review the opposing parties file written briefs and later present oral arguments. Then, upon reaching a decision, the judges issue written opinions explaining that decision.

Juvenile Courts Americans are increasingly concerned about the handling of cases involving juveniles, and states have responded to the problem in a variety of ways. Some have established a statewide network

of courts specifically to handle matters involving juveniles. Two states — Rhode Island and South Carolina — have family courts, which handle domestic relations matters as well as those involving juveniles. The most common approach is to give one or more of the state’s limited or general trial courts jurisdiction to handle situations involving juveniles. In Alabama, for example, the circuit courts (trial courts of general jurisdiction) have jurisdiction over juvenile matters. In Kentucky, however, exclusive juvenile jurisdiction is lodged in trial courts of limited jurisdiction 

— the district courts. Finally, some states apportion juvenile jurisdiction among more than one court. The state of Colorado has a juvenile court for the city of Denver and has given jurisdiction over juveniles to district courts (general trial courts) in the other areas of the state. Also, some variation exists among the states as to when jurisdiction belongs to an adult court. States set a standard age at which defendants are tried in an adult court. In addition, 

many states require that more youthful offenders be tried in an adult court if special circumstances are present. In Illinois, for instance, the standard age at which juvenile jurisdiction transfers to adult courts is 17. The age limit drops to 15, however, for first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, armed robbery, robbery with a firearm, and unlawful use of weapons on school grounds. 

ADMINISTRATIVE AND STAFF SUPPORT IN THE STATE JUDICIARY The daily operation of the federal courts requires the efforts of many individuals and organizations. This is no less true for the state court systems. Magistrates State magistrates, who may also be known in some states as commissioners or referees, are often used to perform some of the work in the early stages of civil and criminal case processing. In this way they are similar to U.S. magistrate judges. In some jurisdictions they hold bond hearings and conduct preliminary investigations in criminal cases. They are also authorized in some states to make decisions in minor cases.

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