The System of Courts in the United States

The Supreme Court is the only federal judicial authority, the creation of which is provided directly by the US Constitution. Throughout history, the Supreme Court has played and continues to play hitherto a completely unique role in the development of sources and basic institutions of American law. It is defined by the exceptional and extraordinary breadth of powers of the Supreme Court and peculiarities the United States legal system formation process.

The system of courts consists of the US Supreme Court, courts of general jurisdiction and federal courts. The entire system of courts is headed by the US Supreme Court that holds an extremely important position in the whole structure of higher state agencies along with the US Congress and the President (Hall & Feldmeier, 2012). The US Supreme Court is the only judicial institution mentioned in the US Constitution, it consists of nine judges, one of whom is appointed the chairman. Members of the Supreme Court including the chairman are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The quorum necessary for decision-making consists of six members of the Court. It seems very significant to point out the fact that the Supreme Court is a countermajoritarian institution as it acts opposing to the majoritarian view to some extent. In other words, it supposes some degree of aptitude to nullify or countermand laws revealing the will of the majority. The Supreme Court hears cases at first instance concerning disputes between two or more states, claims in which one of the parties are the ambassadors of foreign states, and some other (in practice, this kind of business are few). However, its main feature is the consideration of complaints against decisions of the lower federal courts and state courts, if they affect the federal question, as well as requests for a cancellation of the decision of any court, which recognized the United States as unconstitutional the law of any state or act of the US Congress.

It also goes without saying that the power of the Supreme Court of judicial review makes its role in the government even more vital. Judicial review is the competence of the Court in the decision declaring that the legislature enacted the normative act or action of the executive branch are null and void because they are contrary to the Constitution.

As a matter of fact, in the United States together with a single federal system of courts one might note independent judicial systems of each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia as well as four federal territories (Greenhouse, 2012). The jurisdiction of federal courts includes, first of all, consideration of criminal cases on crimes provided for by federal law, civil cases for claims against the federal government, and disputes arising in connection with the application of federal laws or between citizens living in two different countries, if the sum of the claim exceeds $ 10,000. For instance, federal courts make a decision whether a person committed a crime and what the sentence should be jugged (Court Role and Structure, n.d.). Thus, the jurisdiction of federal courts is limited: it is defined only by the terms of the interior, which is set by the US Constitution (Section 2 of Article III). At the same time, the basic function of courts of general jurisdiction in the United States is not only the resolution of specific legal disputes but also the implementation of the constitutional control and interpretation of the Constitution.


Court Role and Structure. (n.d.). United States Courts. Web.

Greenhouse, L. (2012). The U.S. Supreme Court: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hall, D., & Feldmeier, J. P. (2012). Constitutional law: Governmental powers and individual freedoms (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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