Business Law:Legal, E-Commerce, Ethical and International Environments
, Fifth Edition, by Henry R. Cheeseman. Published by Prentice-Hall. Copyright ©2004by Pearson Education, Inc.
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We're the jury,dread our fury!
Trial by Jury
A court that hears matters of aspecialized or limited nature.
small claims court
A court that hears civil casesinvolving small dollar amounts.
A court that hears cases of ageneral nature that are not withinthe jurisdiction of limited- jurisdiction trial courts.Testimonyand evidence at trial are recordedand stored for future reference.
State Courts hear and decide the majority ofcasesin this country.The law,wherein,as in amagic mirror,we see reflected,not only our own lives,but the lives ofall men that have been! When I think on this majestic theme,my eyes dazzle.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
The Law,Speeches 17 (1913)
There are two major court systems in the United States:(1) the federal court system and(2) the court systems of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.Each of these systemshas jurisdiction to hear different types of lawsuits.The process of bringing,maintaining,anddefending a lawsuit is called
.Litigation is a difficult,time-consuming,and costly process that must comply with complex procedural rules.Although it is not required,mostparties employ a lawyer to represent them when they are involved in a lawsuit.Several forms of
dispute resolution have developed in response to theexpense and difficulty of bringing a lawsuit.These methods,collectively called
,are being used more and more often to resolve commercial disputes. This chapter discusses the various court systems,the jurisdiction of courts to hear anddecide cases,the litigation process,and alternative dispute resolution.
The State Court Systems
Eachstate and the District of Columbia has a separate court system.Most state court sys-tems include the following:
limited-jurisdiction trial courts,general-jurisdiction trial courts,intermediate appellate courts
Limited-Jurisdiction Trial Court
limited-jurisdiction trial courts
,which are sometimes referred to as
,hear matters of a specialized or limited nature.In many states,traffic courts,juvenilecourts,justice-of-the-peace courts,probate courts,family law courts,and courts that hear mis-demeanor criminal law cases and civil cases involving lawsuits under a certain dollar amountare examples of such courts.Because these courts are trial courts,evidence can be introducedand testimony given.Most limited-jurisdiction courts keep a record of their proceedings. Their decisions usually can be appealed to a general-jurisdiction court or an appellate court.Many states have also created
small claims courts
to hear civil cases involving smalldollar amounts (e.g.,$5,000 or less).Generally,the parties must appear individually andcannot have a lawyer represent them.The decisions of small claims courts are often appeal-able to general-jurisdiction trial courts or appellate courts.
General-Jurisdiction Trial Court
Every state has a
general-jurisdiction trial court
.These courts are often referred to as
courts of record
because the testimony and evidence at trial are recorded and stored forfuture reference.They hear cases that are not within the jurisdiction of limited-jurisdictiontrial courts,such as felonies,civil cases over a certain dollar amount,and so on.Some statesdivide their general-jurisdiction courts into two divisions,one for criminal cases andanother for civil cases.Evidence and testimony are given at general-jurisdiction trial