In the United States, the court structure is quite different from that which is commonly seen in other countries. Most cases involving the local or state laws are tried in the State Trial Courts. Above the State Trial Courts are the State Appeals Courts followed by the State Supreme Courts. In the cases involving the federal laws, the cases are first heard in U.S. District Courts followed by an appeal made in the U.S. Court of Appeals. However, the topmost order of courts for both federal and state laws is the United States Supreme Court. In addition to these, there are also certain Special Federal Courts which hear cases involving special circumstances.
Types Of Cases (General)
In all the courts given above, there are different types of cases that can be tried according to the powers and jurisdictions of these courts. The most common type of case arises from the intent or kind of offense that has been committed. These are classified into criminal and civil cases. Let us see in detail what are the different classification of cases and the different stages involved in the judicial process.
When a lawsuit has been filed against a party indicating that the offense committed is criminal in nature, then such a lawsuit is called a criminal case. Most often than not, the government acts as the opposite party in such cases. In the U.S. District Courts, the United States attorney (also known as prosecuting attorney) represents the government and conducts judicial proceedings on its behalf. The judgment given in criminal cases can indicate punishment in the form of fines, probation, jail term, community service, and similar others.
It must be noted that most crimes committed are a violation of state laws and hence these lawsuits will be tried in the State Courts. However, if the crime has broken any United States Government Law, then they will be tried in the U.S. Federal Courts. Given below are some of the crimes which can be considered for prosecution under the federal courts.
The cases which are related to the conflict between two parties over issues such as contracts, ownership, money and other similar issues are called civil cases. Unlike criminal cases, the parties to civil lawsuits are people or institutions (most commonly corporate businesses). The major difference between the two cases is that, in a civil lawsuit the responsibility of proving that the defendant has done something wrong lies with the plaintiff. This is known as the burden of proof in the legal terminology.
In addition to making a decision in a civil case, the plaintiff may also request the court to award damages ie. monetary compensation for harm caused to the plaintiff due to actions of the defendant. The plaintiff can also ask the court for an injunction ie. to prevent the defendant from taking any action or doing something which will further cause damage to the plaintiff since the issue is under trial.
When the trial is ongoing, both the parties involved can also agree to resolve the disputes mutually and reach a compromise. This decision has to be then communicated to the court which will declare the lawsuit to be settled as per agreement between the two parties. Such actions help in resolving the lawsuits early.
There are several different types of civil cases that are further categorized based on the type of harm that is caused to the plaintiff on account of the defendant’s actions. Some of the common types of civil cases are as follows.