A court system is basically a hierarchy of courts in a given country or state with an associated chain of command for hearing cases. Likewise, a court system or judiciary is an arm of most governments in the world responsible for ensuring the law is abided by all citizens and non-citizens, ascertains allegations by hearing cases to recommend the final punishment in accordance with the country's constitution. Every court system is very dynamic and each one has historical links with the colonial periods.
The paper highlights the historical background of US with more focus on the metamorphosis through which the initial law underwent to give birth to current US court system. In it I will also mention the English model law, promulgation of US constitution in 1789, and how from then the judicial system was formed. Briefly the paper mentions some historical landmarks on the system. Finally, I will give brief discussion on the US dual-court system i.e. federal and state courts and the correlation with the past.
The court system in United States of America, the federal judicial branches and the states governments are responsible for both upholding and interpreting the US law. Currently, the United States judicial system also known as court system is found in two separate systems each administered differently. These are the federal and the state systems where each is operating independent of the other branches of government i.e. the executive and legislature. This type of dual system dates its history from the colonial period from which it has undergone drastic development. The US basically had the English model type of constitution which was adopted when the English colonized the states. The colony's system was not phased out completely but instead it was developed to give rise to the current model. The only difference is the modifications which have been done on the staffing modalities and the criteria of bringing and hearing the cases.
According to Baldwin (2009) the US constitution was first mandated in 1789 after the long time of the mentioned colonial law. This marked the establishment of federal judiciary which was constituted to replace the initial English model which was being used by the Thirteen US colonies. These colonies were; Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, New York , Rhode Island, and Connecticut each of which had its own comprehensive court system adopting the English model. After 1789, the dual system started growing with the two systems developing side by side with the concurrent application of the two in some areas. This is attributed to 1781 when America began as a nation after the surrender of Lord Cornwallis after which George Washington took over at Yorktown. This was a new beginning to not only the legal systems but also the socio-cultural systems which took the Great Britain models.
Before the adoption of the constitution, US was under the governance of the Articles of Confederation. Congress was the most recognized arm and was vested with all functions of the national government; this was in accordance with the Articles. The Articles of Confederation did not contain a national judiciary and this was seen as one of its major loopholes. As a result, delegates were not reluctant to undo this weakness where they summoned a Constitutional Convention held in 1787 in Philadelphia. They agreed unanimously that the national judiciary be established alongside the other arms of the government; executive and the legislature (Baldwin, 2009). This saw the US judiciary 'coming to birth'. However, a disagreement was witnessed on the specific structure the judicial branch was to take. There were several proposals on this including the Virginia Plan. According to this; the structure would have both the Supreme Court and the federal courts which were more interior.
New Jersey Plan was proposed which opposed the Virginia one. According to the pros of the plan, single supreme tribunal was to be created as they great in disagreement with the federal courts. They proposed that the state courts shall hear all cases and the Supreme Court was to hear the appeals thereby administering the uniformity of judgments all over the country. The conflicts in the Constitutional Convention were resolved and later The Judiciary Act of 1789 was established. The constitution was endorsed after which the new Congress embarked on the judicial organization immediately they convened in 1789. The debate on the structure was also evidenced resulting in the division of the congress in two groups. First group argued that the federal law be first adjudicated in the state courts first as the Supreme Court was to hear appeals. Their fear was alleged to the new government which could violate the state rights. The second group was driven by the suspicion of the narrow-minded injustice with the state courts. Ultimately, the group preferred a system composed of the federal courts.
The debate gave birth to the law, the Judiciary Act 1789. The judicial system which arose had Supreme Court (composed of a chief, five associate justices), three circuit courts (two Supreme Court justices and a district judge), and 13 district courts for each state each presided over by a district judge. This was not enough as the Congress further created two inferior federal courts. This judicial law was put in action by the US first President George Washing who immediately appointed the first Supreme Court justices. There was some political influence during the appointment as George drew the justices from the Federalist Party although he was applauded for considering the geographical representation. The Supreme Court convened for the first time Monday, February 1, 1790. The court was revolutionized by John Marshall who served as a Justice between 1801 and 1835. The court also did not escape the common challenges of the correlation between itself and the national and state governments; this was witnessed in 1865.
All the processes through which the Judiciary Act 1789 underwent gave rise to the current US Dual Court System. The system comprises of the Federal Courts and the State Courts. In United States of America, there 50 State Court Systems with the following Hierarchy (Burton, 2007).