Criminal proceedings may be conducted under state or federal law, depending on the nature and scope of the offense. A criminal trial usually begins with an arrest by a law enforcement officer. When a grand jury decides to file an indictment, the accused appears before a judge and is formally charged with a crime, in which case he or she may plead guilty. Cases are legal decisions based on a specific set of facts involving parties who have a real interest in the controversy. Here are some of the fundamental principles that make up the U.S. legal system. Each of these chapters is discussed in more detail in this chapter and in other chapters of this book. They are summarized below to give the reader an overview of some of the fundamental principles of American common law. Create your legal strategy and do important work with authoritative primary law, analysis, advice, court records and validation tools. The American legal system is based on a system of federalism or decentralization. While the national or “federal” government itself has significant powers, individual states retain powers that are not explicitly listed as exclusively federal. Most states have judicial systems similar to those of the federal court system. Address the business side of your legal activities with solutions to manage, track, and analyze business, finance, critical processes, relationships, and deliverables.
Federal appeals are decided by panels of three judges. The complainant makes legal arguments to the Panel in a written document called “oral argument”. In the oral argument, the plaintiff tries to convince the judges that the trial court erred and that the lower decision should be overturned. On the other hand, the defendant of the appeal, known as the “appellant” or “defendant”, tries to demonstrate in its argument why the decision of the trial court was correct or why the errors made by the trial court are not significant enough to influence the outcome of the case. The U.S. legal system is adversarial and rests on the premise that a genuine and living dispute, involving parties who have a genuine interest in its outcome, allows for the most vigorous legal debate on issues, and that courts should not have the power to make decisions unless they respond to genuine controversy. Therefore, federal courts are prohibited from issuing “advisory” opinions or opinions that do not relate to an ongoing case or controversy. (These principles are based on Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which limits the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to “cases and controversies.” Unlike federal courts, some states allow cases that are not based on actual controversies to be brought and therefore do not share the federal court`s bias against expert opinion.) The accused has time to review all the evidence in the case and present a legal argument.
Then the case goes to court and decided by a jury. If it is concluded that the accused is not guilty of the crime, the charge is dismissed. Otherwise, the judge determines the sentence, which may include imprisonment, a fine or even execution. The courts only hear cases of fact and controversy – a party must prove that they have suffered harm in order to take legal action. This means that the courts do not rule on the constitutionality of laws or the legality of acts if the judgment has no practical effect. Cases before the judiciary usually range from the District Court to the Court of Appeal and may even end up in the Supreme Court, although the Supreme Court hears relatively few cases each year. Criminal cases should not be placed under the jurisdiction of diversity. States can only sue in state courts, and the federal government can only sue in federal court. It is important to note that the principle of double prosecution – which does not allow an accused to be charged twice on the same count – does not apply between the federal and state governments. For example, if the state lays a murder charge and does not receive a conviction, in some cases the federal government can lay charges against the defendant if the act is also illegal under federal law. If the court grants certiorari, the judges accept the pleadings of the parties to the case, as well as those of the amicus curiae or “friends of the court.” This can include industry trade groups, academics, or even the U.S.
government itself. Before rendering a judgment, the Supreme Court usually hears oral arguments in which the various parties to the application present their arguments and the judges ask them questions. When the case involves the federal government, the U.S. Attorney General makes arguments on behalf of the United States. The judges then hold private lectures, make their decision, and (often after a period of several months) deliver the court`s opinion as well as any dissenting arguments that may have been written. The country`s 94 district or trial courts are called U.S. District Courts. District courts settle disputes by investigating facts and applying legal principles to decide who is right. A litigant who loses in a federal appeals court or in a state`s highest court can file a petition for a “writ of certiorari,” which is a document that asks the U.S.
Supreme Court to review the case. However, the Supreme Court is not required to grant review. The court usually only approves a case if it is a new and important legal principle or if two or more federal courts of appeal have interpreted a law differently. (There are also special circumstances in which the Supreme Court is required by law to hear an appeal.) When a case is brought before the Supreme Court, the parties must file written pleadings and the court may hear oral proceedings. Once a criminal or civil case has been heard, it can be challenged in a higher court – a federal appeals court or a state appeals court. The litigant who appeals, called an “appellant”, must prove that the court of first instance or the administrative authority made an error of law that affected the outcome of the case. An appellate court makes its decision based on the case record prepared by the court of first instance or the lower court – it does not receive additional evidence or hear witnesses. It may also review findings of fact made by the court of first instance or the trial authority, but can normally only set aside the outcome of a trial on objective grounds if the findings were “manifestly erroneous”. If an accused is found not guilty in criminal proceedings, he or she may not be retried on the basis of the same facts. Get advice from law students and lawyers in the LexTalk Community Legal Counsel: The lawyer advises the client on how to order the client`s affairs, how or whether to proceed with a proposed course of action, or how to proceed with ongoing or potential litigation or settlement. Often this is when the lawyer prepares (or asks someone) an inter-office law brief that reviews the client`s legal situation and helps the lawyer advise the client. Find out how cases get to the Supreme Court and how judges make decisions.
Use this lesson plan in class. Some of the various sources of law examined are considered “mandatory” or “binding”, while other sources are considered only “persuasive”. The term “jurisdiction” has two important meanings in U.S. law. One meaning of the term “jurisdiction” refers to the formal power of a court to exercise judicial authority over a particular matter. Although the term is most often used in connection with the jurisdiction of a court in certain matters, it may also be referred to as matters that may or may not fall within the jurisdiction of another State organ. Although rare, the entire district court can hear some appeals through a process called a bench hearing. (The ninth circle has a different process for the bench than the rest of the circuits.) Bench reviews tend to carry more weight and are usually only decided after a panel has heard the case for the first time.
Once a panel has decided an issue and “published” the notice, no future panel can overturn the previous ruling.