HIERARCHY OF COURTS IN CALIFORNIA
The Courts of United States has dual structure viz. The Federal Court System and the State Court System. However in both these court systems the there are three levels.
- Courts of appeal as the Last Resort
- Intermediate Courts of Appeal
FEDERAL COURT SYSTEM
As per the Federal Court System United Sates has been divided into 11 circuits having a Courts of Appeal for each circuit, and a District Court and a Bankruptcy Court in each district circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest authority and the last resort in this system. California is in the Ninth Circuit. The courts of California according to this system of classification has been divided as follows:
- California Central Bankruptcy Court
- California Central District Court
- California Eastern Bankruptcy Court
- California Eastern District Court
- California Eastern Probation Office
- California Northern Bankruptcy Court
- California Northern District Court
- California Southern Bankruptcy Court
- California Southern District Court
- California Southern Pretrial Services
California Southern Probation Office
The U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal hear the appeals from these courts, which are the Trial Courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court hears the appeal from U.S. Circuit Courts as a last resort to the appeal. If a case involves a right protected by the U.S. Constitution, a party may directly appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The United States Supreme Court hears certain appeals from U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal and exercises original jurisdiction as provided in the U.S. Constitution.
Apart from these a U. S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has been established to review civil appeals dealing with minor claims against the U.S. government; appeals in patent-right cases and cases involving inter-national trade disputes.
STATE COURT SYSTEM
The Courts of California is divided in to three division viz. Supreme Court of California is the highest Court being the court of Last Resort for Appeals. The State Courts of Appeal which has been divided into Appellate District Courts according to region signifies the intermediary level of courts for appeal and at the bottom of the line the County Courts known as the Superior Courts.
The Superior Courts of California comprise of Small Claims Court, Criminal court, family Court, Traffic Court and also provides the services like Alternative Dispute Resolution through arbitration or mediation.
COURTS AND THE CASES
The District Circuit Courts deal with the matter relating to federal statutes, U.S. constitution, and civil disputes between citizens.
The U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal hears the appeal from the District Circuit Courts, Bankruptcy Courts.
The appeals from the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal are heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, which involves vital questions of law concerning the constitution.
District Courts or the Superior Courts
The District Courts in California is most popularly known as the Superior Courts, which is present in each county. Superior Courts entertain both Civil and Criminal Cases. These Courts have original jurisdiction. The Superior court is further subdivided in to family law court, traffic court, juvenile court, criminal court, probate court etc.
The family courts deal with the matters relating to dissolution of marriage, nullity, legal separation and paternity, including related issues of spousal support, child support and custody etc.
The juvenile court takes up the case of Juveniles delinquents i.e. the persons under 18 years of age those who commit offence would otherwise be called as crime if committed by an adult. This court works on the principle of reforming the juveniles.
The California Legislature determines the number of judges in each court. Superior court judges serve six-year terms and are elected by county voters on a nonpartisan ballot at a general election. Vacancies are filled through appointment by the Governor. A superior court judge (with the exception of former municipal court judges in recently unified courts) must have been an attorney admitted to practice law in California or have served as a judge of a court of record in this state for at least 10 years immediately receding election or
COURTS OF APPEAL
The Courts of appeal are higher in rank than the superior court and under take cases in appeals.
Each district (or division, in the case of the Second and Fourth Districts) has a presiding justice and two or more associate justices. Appellate justices are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.
Courts of Appeal have appellate jurisdiction except for the cases where death penalty has been pronounce. Like the Supreme Court, they have original jurisdiction in habeas corpus, mandamus, certiorari, and prohibition proceedings. The Courts of Appeal entertain appeals from decisions of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, and the Public Employment Relations Board. Three Judges panel decides the case.
THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in proceedings for extraordinary relief in the form of mandamus, certiorari, and prohibition and original jurisdiction in habeas corpus proceedings.
The state Constitution empowers the Supreme Court to review decisions of the state Courts of Appeal so as to decide important legal questions and to maintain uniformity in the law. The court may opt to decide specific issues or all the issues in review. The Constitution of California prescribes the court to review all cases in which a judgment of death has been pronounced by a trial court. Under state law, these cases are automatically appealed directly from a trial court to the Supreme Court. The only other matters coming directly to the Supreme Court are appeals from decisions of the Public Utilities Commission.
One Chief Justice and six associate justices are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments and are also confirmed by the public at the next general election; justices also come before voters at the end of their 12-year terms. To be considered for appointment, a person must have been an attorney admitted to practice in California for at least 10 years immediately preceding appointment, or must have served as a judge of a court of record in California.