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Judicial Powers - Special Courts

supreme jurisdiction family limited

Family courts are special courts that deal with legal problems involving family relations. Family courts may handle cases, as defined by statutes, that involve guardianship, child neglect, and juvenile delinquency. Because of the nature of the family courts, the proceedings are sometimes more informal than in civil or criminal courts. A probate court, or surrogate's court, is another special type of court. It hears cases involving wills and inheritance but also sometimes handles adoptions and competency hearings. Limited jurisdiction courts operating on a local level deal with cases where the law violations are less severe than those handled by the general jurisdiction courts. Limited jurisdiction courts include traffic, police, and municipal courts. Small claims courts, or people's courts, are courts where people can go for disputes that involve lesser monetary amounts, usually under a few thousand dollars. The court procedures and rules of evidence in small claims disputes are less formal and claimants are quite often not allowed to have an attorney represent their case.

Some states offer intermediate appellate courts, which review the decisions of the general jurisdiction courts and the limited jurisdiction courts. From there, an appeal can be brought to the state supreme court. If there is no appellate court, the state supreme court hears appeal cases from the both the general and the limited jurisdiction courts. The state supreme court's decision can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court but only if there is a constitutional question. State supreme courts also regulate the practice of law and often serve as the state's final authority on professional discipline or responsibility. The state supreme courts go by several names, including Supreme Court of Errors, Supreme Judicial Court, or Court of Appeals.

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