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Criminal Courts

State Courts

State courts systems operate independently of federal courts, but are structured much like the federal system with the multiple levels of trial courts, appellate courts, and a high court, usually called a state supreme court. States also have more specialized courts than found in the federal system.

Most cases in the United States, including criminal cases, go to state courts. State courts hear almost one hundred million cases annually. They decide disputes between individuals, between an individual and the state or local government, and between different governmental agencies. State court decisions cannot be reviewed by federal courts unless some federal or constitutional question is involved.

Each state court system is different, influenced by each state's unique history and society. The state's constitution and laws establish the structure and operation of its courts, all within general limits set by federal law and the U.S. Constitution. The court systems of forty-nine states are based on English common law like the federal government, however Louisiana is not. Due to its French history, Louisiana's criminal justice system is based on civil laws that operate quite differently including a more active role of judges during trials. Despite their independence, some common features do exist among the court systems of all U.S. states.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawCriminal Courts - Early American Courts, The Constitution And The Courts, Creating A National Court System, Federal Courts - Special state courts