United States Judiciary
The federal judicial organization and that of the states are parallel. In both systems there are three instances. The court of first instance in the federal system is the District Court from which you can appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals, composed of three judges. The districts are eighty, divided between ten circuits. The right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States can be had in a few cases, but an application can be made to obtain a review of the process, by means of a decree (writ) of certiorari, issued on the unquestionable judgment of the Supreme Court itself. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has full jurisdiction in disputes between the various states and jurisdiction of appeal in all disputes concerning the constitution or federal laws decided by the highest judiciary of the states.
The state judiciary is similar to this. The lower court, mostly referred to as the Superior Court (New York State Supreme Court), has unlimited general jurisdiction. The second instance is represented by a District Court of Appeals, with three or five judges; the Supreme Court (in New York, Court of Appeals) has jurisdiction in all matters relating to the constitution and laws of the state.
The appellate courts in the United States almost exclusively decide matters of law; for matters of fact, decided by the lower courts, when new evidence is produced, there is only a review of the trial by the court that judged.
One of the characteristics of the American procedure is the presence of a jury in both criminal and civil trials. The jury is an element of common law, which has always seemed fundamental to Americans. In criminal trials, the right to a trial before jurors is guaranteed in particular by the constitutional rights bill, and in federal courts the jury is also required for disputes based on common law in the strict sense.
However, the prestige of this institution is diminishing, not only in civil trials, for which in most of the United States it can be freely dispensed with and it could be abolished, while it often no longer requires unanimity, but also in criminal trials., in which however the institute could not be abolished except through an amendment to the constitution. But the jury has lost much of the importance it had after the presidency of A. Jackson, when state judges were mostly elective by popular vote and briefly, and could not discuss the evidence, while the jury not only determined reity, but fixed the penalty. This system met with opposition in various states, such as Massachusetts, and was not applied in federal courts; after all, many of these innovations have recently been abandoned and there is a tendency to remove judges from popular elections and to limit the competence of the jury to determine matters of fact. This separation between questions of fact and questions of law (often difficult in practice) is an essential element in the British and American judicial systems, and, as we have seen, also determines the right to appeal.
Another element is the existence, both in the United States and in England, of a very technically developed right of evidence, but not susceptible of a true scientific treatment except by way of classification, as in the book by JH Wigmore. These rules of evidence were formed in England in trial practice and presuppose a system of examination based entirely on questions and answers; they have been characterized as a method of excluding numerous mixed matters which in other systems have considerable probative force. One of the most famous rules is the exclusion of testimony “by hearsay” (hear – say), which however admits various exceptions. These norms have been brought in America to a degree of casuistry subtlety unknown in England. This is due, in part, to the lesser influence the American judge has in the direction of the trial; moreover, many rules are based on the assumption that evidence must convince a jury, often made up of people with limited learning and easy to mislead.
If, in the characteristics indicated above, US law has preserved the essential features of the common law, as one concerns the separation, typically English, including “law” (law) and “fairness” (equity) – that is, between the right administered by the chancellor and that administered by the ordinary courts, American law soon developed in its own way.
This separation of law and equity as different systems dependent on separate jurisdictions had generally been opposed in colonial America, especially in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania; but in the sec. Eighteenth and early nineteenth the reception of common law seemed to necessitate that separation of jurisdictions and in various states the head of the equity courtshe was even called chancellor, as in England. But opposition to this dual system soon regained the upper hand. In the state of New York, on the initiative of DD Field, a code of civil procedure was adopted in 1848 that merges the two systems and makes it unnecessary to suspend the proceedings in one court to await the judgment of the other. Furthermore, the new code abolishes the need to give a name to the action (distant reminiscence of the Roman legis actiones) and also the series of speeches, which recalls the Roman procedure for formulas.
The code of the state of New York was widely copied and is now adopted by almost all states, while its fundamental principles have passed into the English Judicature Act of 1871. The constant effort to simplify and speed up the procedure has led to the passing of many laws. on judicial practice (Practice Acts).
The federal judicial system has only partially adopted the code of procedure; law and equity are separated only with regard to the place and time of the hearing, but the judges are the same. Many matters that the procedural codes of the various states have specifically assigned to one or the other type of procedure have been abandoned to rules issued by the court itself: which ensures greater flexibility and allows, if necessary, rapid innovations.
The dual system of courts – federal and state – has always been difficult for foreigners to understand. Federal courts have jurisdiction over all disputes relating to federal laws or concerning the federal administration. But when plaintiff and defendant are from different states, ordinary property or contract disputes can be decided by federal courts, as long as the value is at least $ 3,000. Of the matters of exclusive competence of the federal courts, the most important are bankruptcy and maritime law.
Recently, in emramhi i systems, a new type of court has come into operation. Offices and administrative commissions have multiplied enormously since the creation of the Federal Trade Commission, which was the first of these bodies to be endowed with extensive powers; and their activity has created a series of rules that form a real administrative law, only recently recognized in the United States as an organic law. Offices and commissions, despite the opposition of many jurists, are acquiring more and more the character of courts, with their own procedure and criteria. And in this way, in England as in the United States, the historical process that once created the common law from the feudal administration is repeated.. But how this new type of court will fit within the judiciary is still unclear.