state court system | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Courts

A state court system is the collection of courts within a given state that is responsible for hearing and deciding a wide range of legal cases at the state level. State court systems are organized hierarchically, with lower courts at the bottom and appellate courts at the top.

The lower courts, which are sometimes referred to as trial courts or courts of general jurisdiction, are responsible for hearing a wide range of civil and criminal cases. In some states, lower courts may be specialized, with separate courts for family law, juvenile justice, or small claims cases.

At the next level are the appellate courts, which review decisions made by the lower courts to ensure that they were made in accordance with the law. Appellate courts do not hold trials or hear testimony; rather, they review the written record of the case and any legal arguments made by the parties to determine whether the lower court made any errors of law.

In some states, the highest court is called the supreme court, while in others it may be known as the court of appeals or another name. The decisions made by the highest court in a state are final and binding, and they set important legal precedents that may be followed by other courts in the state.

In addition to the formal court system, many states also have alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms, such as mediation or arbitration, that can be used to resolve legal disputes outside of the courtroom. These ADR mechanisms are often used in cases involving family law, employment law, or business disputes, and they can be a faster and more cost-effective alternative to traditional litigation.

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Last Modified: 03/14/2023


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