THE SYSTEM OF COURTS IN THE UNITED STATES


The judiciary is the third branch of the federal government of the USA. Its function is to interpret the Constitution.

“Equal Justice Under Law” These words, which affirm that the United States is a nation governed according to law and that the law protects and directs the actions of all people equally, are carved in marble on the front of one of the most significant buildings in Washington, D.C., the building where the Supreme Court of the USA does its work.

In the United States the judiciary is divided into the national (federal) and state judiciary. Each is independent from the other with the exception that the US Supreme Court may, under special circumstances involving federal questions, review a state court decision.

The State courts had existed before the Constitution was drafted and at present are set up in a system that looks like the system of Federal courts. The state courts have general, unlimited power to decide nearly every type of case. These courts handle most criminal matters and the greatbulk of legal business concerning probate of estates, marital disputes, dealings in land, commercial contracts, and other day-to-day matters.

The Federal court system has such structure: the Supreme Court, 13 courts of appeals, 94 district courts and two courts of special jurisdiction.

The US Supreme Court is the highest tribunal in the United States. It includes a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. They are all appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. The responsibility and power of these nine people are extraordinary. The Supreme Court decisions can affect the lives of all Americans and can change society significantly. This has happened many times in the course of the American history. In the past the Supreme Court rulings halted actions by American presidents, declared unconstitutional – and therefore void – laws passed by Congress, freed people from prisons and gave new protections and freedoms to black Americans and other minorities. The Supreme Court is the court of final appeal and it may rule in cases that involve chargesthat individual rights or freedoms have been violated. Such cases arise because the Constitution guarantees these rights and freedoms to everyone.

The Supreme Court is in session from October to June. One of the most important duties of the justices is to decide whether laws passed by Congress agree with the Constitution. The justices do this by interpreting the laws of Congress and the provisions of the Constitution. If the Supreme Court decides that the Constitution does not give Congress the power to pass a certain law, the court declares the law unconstitutional. Such a law can no longer be enforced by the President and his executive officers.

Besides the US Supreme Court, there are various district courts and courts of appeal. They have somewhat less political importance, since their principal duty is to settle cases where no constitutional question is at stake. These courts handle both civil and criminal cases. Each state has at least one district court. Each court has from one to twenty-four federal judges appointed for life by the President. The power of the federal courts extends both to civil actions for damages and otherredress, and to criminal cases arising under federal law. Article III has resulted in a complex set of relationships between state and federal courts. Thus, federal courts may decide, in the language of the Constitution, “Controversies between two or more states; between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different states; or between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States”. For example, one state might sue another state for pollution of the air.

The second highest level of the federal judiciary is made up of the courts of appeals created in 1891 to facilitate the disposition of cases and ease the burden on the Supreme Court. Congress has established 12 regional circuit courts of appeals and the US Court of Appeals for the Federal District. The number of judges sitting on each of these courts varies considerably but most circuits have between 10 and 15 judges.

The courts of appeals review decisions of the district courts (trial courts with federal jurisdiction) within their areas. They also are empowered to review orders of the independent regulatory agencies in cases where the internal review mechanisms of the agencies havebeen exhaustedand there still exists substantial disagreement over legal points. In addition, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals in specialized cases, such as those involving patent laws and cases decided by the courts of special jurisdiction, the Court of International Trade and the Court of Federal Claims.

Below the courts of appeals are the district courts. The 50 states and U.S. territories are divided into 94 districts so that litigants may have a trial within easy reach. Each district court has at least two judges, many have several judges, and the most populous districts have more than two dozen. Depending on caseload, a judge from one district may temporarily sit in another district. Congress fixes the boundaries of the districts according to population, size and volume of work. Some of the smaller states constitute a district by themselves, while the larger states have four districts each.



Most cases and controversies heard by these courts involve federal offences such asmisuse of the mails, theft of federal property, and violations of pure-food, banking, and counterfeiting law. These are the only federal courts where “grand” juries indictthose accused of crimes and “petit” juries decide the cases.

Each US district also includes U.S. bankruptcy court, because Congress has determined that bankruptcy matters should be addressed in federal courts. Through the bankruptcy process, individuals or businesses that can no longer pay their creditors either may seek a court-supervised liquidation of their assets or may recognize their financial affairs and work out a plan to pay off their debts.

In addition to the federal courts of general jurisdiction, it has been necessary from time to time to set up courts for special purposes. These are known as “legislative” courts because they are created by congressional action. Judges in these courts are appointed for life terms by the president, with Senate approval. There are two special trial courts that have nationwide jurisdiction over certain types of cases. The Court of International Trade addresses cases involving international trade and customs issues. The Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction over most claims for money damages against the United States, disputes over federal contracts, unlawful “takings” of private property by the federal government, and a variety of other claims against the United States.

3. Give Ukrainian equivalents to the following words and expressions:

equal justice under law; to involve federal questions; to draft the Constitution; to be set up in a system; great bulk of business matters; marital disputes; day-to-day work; to halt actions by the presidents; to declare void; to handle both civil and criminal cases; to facilitate disposition of cases; internal review mechanism; to have a trial within easy reach; to fix the boundaries; misuse of the mails; theft of federal property; violation of pure-food law; “grand”/”petit” jury; to indict those accused of crimes; international trade and customs issues; unlawful taking of private property by the federal government.

4. Find in the text the words or expressions that mean the following:

тлумачити Конституцію, управляти державою, захищати та скеровувати дії, за особливих обставин, мати справу з більшістю кримінальних справ, суд останньої інстанції, виносити рішення у справі, перебувати у небезпеці, забруднення повітря, мати повноваження переглядати постанови, розбіжності у правових питаннях, найбільш густонаселені округи, слухати справи щодо спорів, закон про підробки, справи стосовно банкрутства, сплатити борги, суд загальної юрисдикції, термін пожиттєвого перебування на посаді, домагатися ліквідації під наглядом суду, претензії щодо збитків, суд з розгляду взаємних претензій.

5. Translate the words given in two columns and match the pairs as they are used in the text.

1. визначний a. влада
2. державний b. повноваження
3. особливий c. свобода
4. необмежений d. закон
5. кримінальний e. механізм
6. надзвичайний f. будівля
7. новий g. справи
8. особистий h. обставина
9. неконституційний i. ціль
10. окружний j. право
11. значний k. розбіжність
12. внутрішній l. судочинство
13. фінансовий m. суд
14. спеціальний n. власність
15. приватний o. справа

6. A: Fill in the appropriate word from the list below.

Estate, halted,debt, exhausted, settled, arose, handled, charges, dealings, interpreted,counterfeited, load, approve, redress, facilitated, sued, eased, disposition, damage, affirming

1. They cooked up variousagainst her. 2. The … done to the house was extensive. 3. It was rumoured he had …. with gangsters. 4. I am very much in your… . 5. Inexpressibly thankful to receive this law by the …. of angels. 6. His …. was valued at $150,000. 7. Twenty-three peers voted for reversing the judgment; thirty-five for …. it. 8. I don't … of his staying at their place. 9. Additional expenses …. from your delay. 10. This ten-dollar bill is…. . 11. A priest has …. me of my sins. 12. We … our funds in a week. 13. Modern inventions havehousework. 13. I have never …. an automatic shift gear. 14. Security forces ... the demonstrators by blocking the road. 15. Be careful, your silence could be ... as an admission of guilt. 16. They are continuing their legal battle to seek some … from the government.17. The issue was …. out of court.18. They …. to get their property back. 19. His teaching … amounted to three and a half hours daily for five days a week.

B: Fill in the appropriate proposition or adverb where necessary.

1. Was there much damage … the car? 2. He is … debt … me … a large sum. 3. I don't approve … his staying … their place. 4. Doubts arose … his mind. 5. Do write … your mother to ease her … her worry. 6. I don't know if I can handle ….the job. 7. The bus came ... a halt just ... time to avoid hitting the wall. 8. He was indicted … theft. 9. She sued him … a large sum … money.

7. Match the words given on the left with their definitions on the right.

1. judiciary a. serious argument or disagreement
2. appeal b. something of value such as land or a patent that is owned; a piece of land or real estate that is owned by somebody; the right to own, possess, or use something
3. court c. the authority to enforce laws or pronounce legal judgments; the area over which legal authority extends
4. case d. an action prohibited by law, or a failure to act as required by law; activity that involves breaking the law
5. contract e. to promise something or make something certain to promise to fulfill another person’s debts or obligations if that person fails to meet them
6. jurisdiction f. an exclusive right officially granted by a government to an inventor to make or sell an invention
7. minority g. the basis for demanding or getting something; a demand for something somebody has a right to or owns
8. to guarantee h. a matter examined or judged in a court of law a matter in question or a problem
9. judge i. a session of an official body that has authority to try criminals, resolve disputes, or make other legal decisions
10. dispute j. the hearing of part or the whole of a previously tried case by a superior court, a request for a hearing, or the right to have such a hearing
11. patent k. a formal or legally binding agreement, such as one for the sale of something, or one setting out terms of employment a document that records a formal or legally binding agreement
12. theft l. high-ranking court officer, formerly a lawyer, who supervises court trials, instructs juries, and pronounces sentences
13. property m. the branch of a country’s central administration that is concerned with dispensing justice a country’s system of law courts
14. crime n. a crime or infringement of a law or rules, especially one less serious than a misdemeanor or a foul in sports
15. claim o. the stealing of somebody else’s property
16. violation   p. a group of people, within a society, whose members have different ethnic, racial, national, religious, sexual, political, linguistic, or other characteristics from the rest of society

8. Answer the following questions.

1. What do the words ‘Equal Justice under Law’ affirm? 2. What jurisdiction do state courts have? 3. What is the structure of the Federal courts? Why can this structure be compared with a pyramid? 4. How can the Supreme Court decisions affect the lives of all Americans? 5. What are the most important duties of the Supreme Court justices? 6. What range of questions do federal courts decide? 7. What are the courts of appeal empowered to do? 8. What kinds of cases are heard by district courts? 9. Why are courts for special purposes called “legislative” courts?

9.Fill in a correct word or phrase from the list below using the appropriate form of each:









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