Article III of the Constitution, which establishes judicial power, leaves Congress considerable discretion in determining the form and structure of the federal judiciary. Even the number of Supreme Court justices is left to Congress — sometimes there were only six, whereas the current number (nine, with one chief justice and eight associate justices) has only existed since 1869. The Constitution also gives Congress the power to create courts subordinate to the Supreme Court and, to that end, Congress has established the United States District Courts, which hear most federal cases, and 13 United States Courts of Appeals, which review appellate courts. 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. Civil cases are similar to criminal cases, but instead of mediating between the state and a person or organization, they deal with disputes between individuals or organizations. If a party believes that its wrongdoing has been committed, it may bring an action in civil court to attempt to remedy the wrongdoing by injunction, change of conduct or award of monetary damages. Once the prosecution has been commenced and evidence has been gathered and presented by both parties, a trial as in a criminal case continues. If the parties involved waive their right to a jury trial, the case may be decided by a judge; Otherwise, the case will be decided by a jury and damages will be awarded. 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 Court of Appeal usually has the final say on the matter, unless it sends the case back to the trial court for a new hearing. In some cases, the decision may be reviewed in a bench, that is, by a larger group of judges of the county Court of Appeals. In general, Congress determines the jurisdiction of federal courts. However, in some cases, such as a dispute between two or more U.S. states, the Constitution grants the Supreme Court jurisdiction in the first instance, an authority that cannot be removed by Congress. Federal courts have exclusive authority to interpret the law, determine the constitutionality of the law, and apply it to individual cases. Courts, such as Congress, can compel the production of evidence and testimony by means of a subpoena.
Lower courts are limited by Supreme Court decisions – once the Supreme Court has interpreted a law, lower courts must apply the Supreme Court`s interpretation to the facts of a particular case. 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. Congress used this power to establish the 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals, the 94 U.S.
District Courts, the U.S. Court of Claims, and the U.S. Court of International Trade. U.S. bankruptcy courts handle bankruptcy cases. Magistrate judges deal with certain matters of the District Court. Generally describes the standard that a party who wants to prove a fact in court must meet in order for that fact to be legally established. There are different standards in different circumstances. For example, in criminal cases, the burden of proof of the guilt of the accused lies with the prosecution, which must prove this fact beyond doubt. In civil cases, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff by predominating the evidence.
The «preponderance of evidence» and the phrase «beyond a reasonable doubt» are different standards that require different amounts of evidence. There are two types of courts at both the federal and state levels: the trial court and the appeals court. The fundamental work of the trial court is to settle disputes by establishing the facts and applying legal principles to decide who is right.