If you are taking a lawsuit to court, then there is a lot to consider. However, one of the most important things to understand is that there are many different courts that you could wind up in. Being fully aware of how the United States Court System works can help you be better prepared for your own trial.
The least powerful of the courts is the Administrative Court, which is tied to a specific industry or organization. This is where one might file a Workers Compensation case or dispute another work-related issue.
Above these are the State Courts, which hear a vast number of lawsuits each year. There are, however, several in each state, which makes it easier for them to handle the load. Each of the state courts has a limited jurisdiction and cannot make a ruling on a case falling outside those boundaries.
State Supreme Courts will often hear appeals sent up from lower courts or those cases that could have a significant bearing on state laws.
If, within the state, there is an issue, but the law in question is not one governed by the state, the participants of the trial cannot appear in a state court. Instead, the case will typically be heard by a Federal District Court. These courts also hear interstate cases, where each party resides in a different state.
There are 94 district courts in the United States and each oversees a specific jurisdiction. Each state is home to at least one of these, and others are located in U.S. Territories — Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.
When a case heard in a federal district court is appealed, it is heard by the Federal Courts of Appeals. There are twelve courts total, falling under this title. In addition, some courts there are case-specific courts – the Court of International Trade and the Court of Federal Claims that will hear only very specific appeals.
Finally, there is the federal Supreme Court, which hears only a very limited number of cases each year. Each of those is thought to hold significant importance to the country as a whole. The findings in these cases could impact federal law or even the accepted interpretation of the Constitution.