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Why Is It Important to Have a Court Hierarchy

Locality. In each jurisdiction, there are more subordinate courts (first instance courts and local courts) spread over a larger area. In Victoria, for example, there is a magistrates` court in Melbourne`s central business district, a dozen others in a Melbourne suburb and nearly 40 in regional and rural cities. This allows courts to deal with relatively minor cases without the need for defendants, plaintiffs, witnesses and legal representatives to travel extensively. Many also consider it appropriate that minor criminal cases, which are often crimes against property or public order, be dealt with in the community where they took place. Cases based entirely on state law can be filed in federal court under the court`s «diversity jurisdiction.» Diversity jurisprudence allows a plaintiff from one state to sue in federal court if the defendant is located in another state. The defendant may also try to «withdraw» from the state court for the same reason. To bring a lawsuit in federal court, all plaintiffs must be located in states different from all defendants, and the «value in dispute» must be greater than $75,000. (Note: Diversity jurisprudence is much more complicated than explained here.) Download a map of how federal courts are divided into twelve regional counties and one federal district. A court of appeal hears appeals from decisions of its county district courts, as well as appeals against decisions of federal administrative authorities. Federal judges (and «judges» of the Supreme Court) are chosen by the president and confirmed «with the advice and assent» of the Senate and «perform their duties in good conduct.» Judges can keep their positions for the rest of their lives, but many retire or retire early.

They can also be impeached by impeachment by the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate. Throughout history, fifteen federal judges have been charged with alleged wrongdoing. An exception to lifetime appointment is for life judges, who are chosen by district judges and serve a specific term. It will be useful to look at a diagram of the court structure for England and Wales. HM Courts Service [Tip: Hold down the Ctrl key and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide hint)] Some functions of the district court are delegated to federal judges. Judges are appointed by the District Court by a majority of judges and are appointed for a term of eight years if they are full-time and four years part-time, but they may be reappointed at the end of their term. In criminal cases, judges may supervise certain cases, issue search and arrest warrants, hold preliminary hearings, determine bail, rule on specific requests (e.g. a request to suppress evidence) and other similar measures. In civil cases, judges often deal with a variety of issues, such as pre-trial motions and investigations.

Expertise. Intermediate and higher courts, and in particular the judges who supervise them, tend to be better equipped to deal with cases of greater factual and legal complexity. Only judges with considerable experience and expertise as lawyers – and sometimes as judges in lower courts – are appointed to the Supreme Court. They are therefore better able to understand cases involving serious charges such as murder or complex legal issues. 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. Members of the court are called «judges» and, like other federal judges, are appointed by the president and confirmed for life by the Senate. The Court has nine judges – eight associate judges and one chief justice.

The Constitution does not impose requirements on Supreme Court judges, although all current members of the Court are lawyers and most have served as district judges. Judges are often also former law professors. The Chief Justice acts as the administrator of the court and is elected by the President and approved by Congress if the office is vacant.