Judicial system changes

The initial constitution of the United States came up with the original central system of governance. It required that each state have its own functional legal system. Each court handled every judicial concern including, criminal cases, family law and private civil disputes. However, it was later agreed that a supreme court be formed for arbitration of matters to do with federal law. The congress was then given the mandate to institute lower courts. The opening congress set up trial courts and intermediate courts also known as District courts and Courts of Appeal respectively.

Today, the judicial system has not changed much; the United States is still a federal government with each of its fifty states having individual governments. There are three levels in the judicial system namely: District court at the bottom, the court of appeal at the center and the supreme court at the apex. It has 91 districts and every district has between 2 and 28 judges. In addition, its 13 courts of appeal have between 6 and 28 judges for each court. At every hearing in the courts of appeal, the sitting panel normally has 3 judges.

Presently however, some special courts have been established by the congress to handle specific cases like taxes, claims against the government, duties and tariffs, military cases, patents and bankruptcy. The congress has also sanctioned some branches and agencies with quasi legal authority which is subject to amendment by the Supreme Court (Surrency, 1987) District courts: This court system was set up as a federal court together with the circuit courts. The two were amalgamated in 1911 to form one district court system.

Today the judicial system is build upon the principle of precedence which requires judgment in one case be used as power for judgment in similar cases unless a higher court overrules. United States Courts of Appeals: The initial congress in the United States came up with a dual system made up of district and circuit courts. The first circuit system was geographically based unlike today’s system. The court of appeal is made up of 11 local courts which listens to appeals sent from district courts from various states.

These include; the united states court of appeals  listens to appeals  from the United States tax court, the United States court of international trade ,  the united states court of veterans appeal, the united states court of federal claims, The court of Columbia  which listens to cases against officers of the government in their administrative capacity (Schmeckebier and Roy,                                                                                                           2001). The United States Supreme Court: This is made up of the Senate.

The constitution endowed the court with political autonomy by giving them conditions for life by removing prosecution only and constant financial compensation that can not be manipulated during their period of office. In 1992, the Supreme courts were commercially availed. The government engaged the reporters to document and print the judgments. Sufficient copies were printed for use by the government and the remainder sold to the public by the reporters. In 1922, the documentation, publication and allotment of judgments by the supreme courts were handed over back to the government.

The supreme courts before 1900’s used briefs. This was an argument in writing showing the court proceedings and legal points, the lawyer’s critical points as well as the query of law. The court records included all the pieces used as evidence in the other courts, orders to the jury etc. Later the courts advanced to use of verbal agreements while in the twentieth century this has gradually reduced. In ancient supreme courts, Verbal arguments had no limits. They displayed the weaknesses and strengths that a case had.

A counsel by that time would argue for up and above 8 hours. Special Courts: these are the United States   court of federal claims and the court of claim. The court of federal claims was set up to ease congress the load of hearing claims in opposition to the state. This was on issues like the civil war and tax refunds. The authority of these courts was later on transferred to the United States court of appeal. On being allocated this new responsibility, it was then renamed the united court of federal claims.

Court of private lands claims: It was created to resolve land disputes in the areas in the following countries; Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Mexico. Commerce court having been established between 1910 and 1913 was meant to handle cases to do with rail courts. It was initially the Interstates Commerce Commission before the 1900’s. Its decisions could be forwarded to the federal court for appeal. Due to congestion of cases at the federal courts, the President Taft came up the commerce court. This court was later banned in 1913.

Board of Tax Appeals: this is present day United States Tax Court. It was founded in 9124 to ease the complex state at the United States government. Bankruptcy Court: During the 19th century, the district courts had authority over case to do with bankruptcy. In 1978 these cases were handed over to judges in every federal judicial system (Morehead, 1999). Court of Military Appeals was founded in 1968 and stopped operating in 1994. It was supposed to review the prison term. In the year 1948, major changes were done in the armed forces and its legal structure.

All divisions of the armed forces were put under the Department of Defense. A military policy of justice was established in 1950. This came up with the Court of Military appeals which in 1994 was renamed the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.


Morehead J. (1999): Introduction to United States Government Information Sources. Libraries Unlimited, Inc. Schmeckebier L. and Roy B. (2001): Government Publications and their Use. Brookings Institution. Surrency E. (1987): History of the Federal Courts. Oceana Publications, Inc.