The court system in America has been around since the middle of the 1600’s and has played a crucial role in the development of how things are done when it comes to the criminal justice side. From today’s federal court and our typical state court, these dual court systems came about from a mutual agreement presented from our nation’s founders. In the last 200 years, states’ rights have gradually waned relative to the power of the federal government, but the dual-court system still exists. Even today, state courts do not hear cases involving alleged violations of federal law, nor do federal courts get involved in deciding issues of state law unless there is a conflict between local or state statutes (Schmalleger, Hall, & Dolatowski, 2010). The first state court system for the American colonies was established as early as 1629 in Massachusetts. They created what was known by as a general court system. This court was comprised of 118 elected officials, and 18 assistants. This in fact set off a chain reaction and a decade later county courts were developed and the general court took on the role of a higher court. As time progressed, so did the courts.
By 1776, all of the American colonies had established fully functional court systems (Schmalleger, Hall, & Dolatowski, 2010). In was not until 1789 when congress gathered to discuss a judicial power for the United States. So on March 4th of that same year the Supreme Court was established as the higher court for America. President George Washing signed the Judiciary Act on September 24, 1789, and later that day nominated John Jay of New York to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The justices changed a number of times throughout time, but after a time it was necessary and was determined that nine justices shall serve on the panel for the court. Even though the justices are nominated by the president, it still requires the approval from the senate. When a justice is elected, he or she are allowed to serve the Supreme Court until they retire, are impeached, or has become deceased, in which manner a new justice will be appointed. Usually the courts operate in a manner of a single judge, the two attorneys, and the 12 jurors, which are appointed to show that a fair verdict will be given. The main goal of our typical court system is to uphold the law, protect the individual on trial and making sure he or she is given a fair trial. Lawyers are there to resolve the disputes and reinforce the social norms for the court proceedings.
Social norms consist of informal and often unspoken rules concerning standards of behavior. They are often tacit and unnoticed (Siegel, Schmalleger, & Worrall, 2011). In the United States, our court system is operated by a dual court system. The two types that make up the dual court system are federal and state. The dual court system is advantageous and desirable because it parallels federalism, a system of government where power is constitutionally divided between a central governing body and various constituent units (Siegel, Schmalleger, & Worrall, 2011). The federal courts deal with cases of a broader degree, while the states courts deal with cases involving crimes within their own state borders. Even though England was the original founders, our nation was in desperate need of changes within the criminal justice court system and keeping this in mind, developed a system that became known by all as the main exclusive jurisdiction. The law has been around for decades and hopefully will continue on into the millennia.
Law or legal code dates back as far as the Roman Empire. A committee of ten men was established in 450 BC to write down the law and that is when the 12 Tables became to exist (Siegel, Schmallager, Worrall, 2011). This paved the way for many changes. With this came the Code of Hammurabi. This was probably the earliest, according to history, known written early legal codes. Despite their shortcomings and harsh character, these early legal codes are important because they signaled the emergence of formalized law (Siegel, Schmalleger, & Worrall, 2011). As time progressed and new conquests where made, it was time to set certain laws in stone. Common law was written and established by England from past customs, traditions, and precedent. Precedent set the standards of judges where aloud to go back to a previous decision from an earlier case to help them render a verdict of their current case. Common law and precedent are still practiced today in England and the United States.
The roles of the courts are important to the study of criminal justice for two key reasons: adjudication and oversight (Siegel, Schmalleger, & Worrall, 2011). Meaning that the purpose of adjudication is to decide who will be accountable for the illegal actions that the criminal performed. If this was never in place then the police would be making arrests for no apparent reason and no charges would be filed. Oversight is utilized when the courts need to be involved if a matter becomes an issue or needs attention from the appellate court. Without these in place there would be no checks and balances to assure a smooth and operational court system.
The federal judicial system, which was established by our Constitution, help paved the way of how things are done in the court system today, especially the creation of the dual-court system. Without these courts in place there would be no checks and balances, such things like if one court system misses a crucial part of evidence or wrong doing, then the next higher court will catch this and make their decisions based on the wrongs or rights of the previous hearing. To appreciate how the court system works though, one must understand how each system works independently within our Nation. The development of the dual-court system is changing everyday with new laws and policies put into place to help guide us on the correct path.
Schmalleger, F., Hall, D. E., & Dolatowski, J. J. (2010). Criminal Law Today. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Siegel, L. J., Schmalleger, F., & Worrall, J. L. (2011). Courts and Criminal Justice in America. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.