Courts serve as an agency of “Social Control”, determining which behaviors may be acceptable and which deserves severe sanction. There are several distinct elements of a court that must be present in order to be considered a court. Courts are comprised of civil courts which generally resolve disputes between private parties and criminal courts that try suspected offenders. Dual court system is a judicial system comprising of Federal and state level judicial systems. Many key elements played a vital role in the development of courts such as early legal codes, the common law, and precedent. Early legal codes signaled the emergence of formalized “Law.”
Common Law is law originating from usage and custom rather than from written statues. Precedent is a legal principle that ensures previous judicial decisions are incorporated into future cases. The role of the court in Criminal Justice is important due to the courts adjudication and oversight. Adjudication and oversight are important for the protection of the people and ensuring the smooth operation of the Criminal Justice system its self.
Keywords: Courts, Dual court system, legal codes, common law, precedent, adjudication and oversight
An American Criminal Court System Courts represent society serving as an instrument for expressing the revulsion people feel for those that commit various crimes. Courts determine which behaviors may be acceptable and which deserve severe sanction. The official definition of court according to the Dictionary of Criminal Justice Data Terminology:
“as an agency or unit of the judicial branch of government authorized or established by statute or constitution, and consisting of one or more judicial officers, which has the authority to decide upon cases, controversies in law, and dispute matters of fact brought before it” Basically, a court determines what should happen to people charged with violating the law or lack thereof. In order to be considered a court there are three distinct elements: (1) a court must have proper legal authority, as spelled out in constitutions or statues, (2) Courts are generally found in the judicial as oppose to legislative and executive branches of government, and (3) Courts are empowered to make the notion of “deciding upon cases , controversies in law, and dispute matters of fact” also known as adjudication or “the process by which a court arrives at a decision regarding a case.”
Once these elements are found to present the court decides where to send the party in question because there is civil courts that generally resolve disputes between private parties and Criminal court that try suspected offenders. The function of the courts can be described in three functions: (1) upholding the law, (2) protecting individuals, and (3) resolving disputes. Upholding the law can be found at the Federal and state level, identifying certain actions that cause social harm and determine the appropriate punishment if any. Protecting individuals freedom and liberties as stated in the U.S. Constitution preamble:
“we the people of the United State, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, to ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Resolving disputes means to determine the parties legal rights and then settle on appropriate remedies whether they be monetary damages or injunctive relief. Monetary damages being a court-ordered payment of money one party has to pay to the other party and Injunctive relief being a court order directing one party in a civil suit to perform or refrain from preforming certain acts.
Courts are a Dual court system because it is a system comprised of Federal and state level judicial systems. It parallels federalism, a system of government where power is constitutionally divided between a central governing body (federal government) and various constituent units (states). In other words, in the United States, the federal government makes laws, but federalism also gives the state power to make their own laws. Much of our system can be considered a cooperative federalism due to some of the laws between the state and federal government overlapping it causes confusion. An example would be at state level Marijuana is legal (up to a certain amount) where on the federal level it is not legal at all an punishable with fines and certain incarceration.
Early legal codes such as the earliest Code of Hammurabi or the Twelve tablets were the first secular written legal codes which were very important because they signaled the emergence of formalized law. Law being generally refers to formal rules, principles, and guidelines enforced by political authority. Political authority is what took the power out the citizens hands and gave it to the governments hands. In early years after the Norman Conquest (A.D. 1066) King William and his Norman Dukes and barons needed to assert there hold and one method were to take control of the preexisting legal/court system.
After a while the judges began to write down their decisions after issuing them and subsequently these decisions, after being circulated to other judges, began taking the literary term known as the law “in common” or common law. Common law initiated consistency throughout the courts and this is where precedent enters. Precedent in law text means a judge’s decision was guided by earlier decisions, thus, ensuring continuity and predictability. The formal practice of adhering to precedent is known in Latin terms as, Stare decisis, “to stand by things decided.” According to the text, Common law emerged at a time when legal codes were in their infancy because judges wrote down their verdicts they were able to criminalize certain forms of conduct without having to reinvent excuses.
Courts play an important role in today criminal justice system for two key resons: Adjudication and oversight. These two key elements are important for the protection of public safety and the smooth operation of the system itself. One of the rulings of the court is to dispute resolution and the adjudication of complaints. Courts decide who is going to answer for an alleged criminal act , such as, who is guilty and who is not guilty. Oversight is our nations Appellate courts which decide the matters of law that affect how police offers do their jobs. Oversight is not seen as a supervisor-subordinate relationship because while the courts oversee the operations of criminal justice officials they only get involved once a certain issue is brought to their attention and only if said decision is publicized and made available for practitioners and other interested authorities to read and implement.
Inclosing, the courts represent the collective conscience of society, serving as an instrument for expressing the revulsion people feel for those who commit particular heinous crimes. Courts cannot be just appointed anywhere but need three distinct elements as well addressing functions of upholding the law, protecting individuals and resolving disputes by elected officials of their corresponding states. There is a thin line between state law and federal law and at times they overlap causing some confusion but with legal basis of common law, legal codes, and constitutions our criminal court system will ensure every individual gets a fair trial.